Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
US reassures Jamaica it will stand behind country, assist with IMF deal
The United States (US) has sent a message to Jamaica, reminding the country that it remains solidly in its corner despite concerns locally that the focus on terrorism and the global financial crisis has caused the Caribbean to be forgotten.
Jamaica has also received a commitment from the US that it will do whatever it can to help the country secure a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
With the Government facing several domestic and international challenges, the highest ranking US State Department official in charge of Jamaica and the region, Liliana Ayalde, has travelled to Kingston with a declaration from the American government of continued support.
"The main message (I take to Jamaica) is that we remain committed and that this is an important relationship to us ... . That we are appreciative of the excellent bilateral relationship we have had over the last 50 years and we want to start thinking about the next 50 years," Ayalde told selected journalists during a briefing on Tuesday.
"I will be having meetings to get a better understanding of what some of the challenges are fiscally for the Jamaican Government ... and obviously as a friend of Jamaica we would like to see Jamaica's fiscal health up to speed to enter into an agreement with the IMF," added Ayalde, who is the US State Department's deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
She told the journalists that the US was prepared to offer Jamaica technical assistance to address the issues which are preventing the country from inking a new IMF deal.
According to Ayalde the US could help Jamaica with issues such as tax administration. This has been a sticking point in the negotiations with the IMF which has demanded tax and pension reforms as prerequisites for any new deal.
Ja still on US radar
Ayalde was quick to dismiss claims that Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean no longer figure prominently on the US radar since the end of the Cold War.
"Our agenda over the years has covered a wide range of efforts ... we see Jamaica as playing a leadership role in CARICOM (and that is) one of the reasons that I was delighted to come here," said Ayalde, who is making her first trip to the region since being appointed.
"There are various aspects of the regional dynamics where Jamaica can play a much more forceful role, so we look to Jamaica in that sense.
"We want to make sure that we are paying attention to the agenda that is driven by the Caribbean and one of the reasons that I have stayed here after the (Independence Day) celebrations is to sit down and listen very closely to what our main interlocutors have to say."
According to Ayalde, during this visit, she will be meeting with government ministers, civil society and other state officials to get a feel of the issues Jamaicans want addressed.
"The agenda has changed and shifted ... and you need to tell us how that agenda is changing and we want to make sure we do the follow-up ... . I hope to be able to get a better picture of how the priorities are balanced out."
Ayalde, who served as the US Ambassador to Paraguay from 2008 to 2011, holds a bachelor's degree from American University and a master's degree in international public health from Tulane University.