Sheena Gayle, Freelance Writer
Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw (left) in conversation with Sydney Engel at the MoBay Hope Medical Centre's 10th anniversary gala dance and dinner. - photo by Denise Reid
Finance Minister Audley Shaw has moved to defuse what he called "unrealistic expectations" ahead of the tabling of this year's budget, warning the public not to expect any magic in April.
Speaking last Saturday at the 10th anniversary gala dinner of the MoBay Hope Medical Centre, held at the Half Moon Hotel, Montego Bay, he referred to an increase in the debt servicing requirements of the nation but was also upbeat as loans on improved terms had been secured to satisfy the nation's creditors.
"I want to be blunt and let you know that in the budget that is about to be tabled, there are additional debt servicing requirements. The last fiscal year saw over $50 billion of additional debt servicing requirements that are coming on to this year's budget and we have the responsibility to service that debt," Shaw said.
Jamaica's huge indebtedness, he said, was a problem that would not be solved soon because the country has one of the highest ratios of debt to GDP in the world "which will not be cured with a snap of the fingers".
At the same time he boasted of managing to secure "cheap loans" from multilateral banks following his taking office as Minister of Finance and the Public Service. "Since I have been in office, I have already negotiated US$170 million worth of loans from the World Bank, the Inter-Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank below five per cent interest rate," he said.
However, the finance minister issued a stern warning against tax dodgers saying he would seek to re-establish the Revenue Protection Division following the budget debate. He argued that there was too much corruption in the system that allowed persons to evade paying taxes.
He articulated a framework in which the country could realise its potential - namely: providing proper fiscal management of the country's affairs; tax reforms that makes it easier to pay taxes; having a more efficient bureaucracy; pursuing aggressive investment promotions and implementing a credible energy policy.