Correction & Clarification
It was reported that the debt in 2007 was J$900 mi l l ion. In fact the amount should have read J$900 billion. In addition, the projected capital expenditure which was reported as US$825.9 million should have been converted in local currency to approximately J$74.3 billion.
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
PNP president talks up investment, refuses to make IMF predictions
PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller says her administration has secured more than a dozen investment projects with a projected capital expenditure of US$825.9 million (J$74.3 billion) to be rolled out during the 2012-2013 period.
In her presentation at the 74th annual conference of the People's National Party (PNP) at the National Arena yesterday, Simpson Miller said she has been working hard with Cabinet and the Economic Development Committee to pull these investments into the country.
"The state of the country requires that we go for every single employment opportunity because every single job counts. As we say, one, one coco full basket," Simpson Miller told thousands of supporters during her first conference speech since returning to office as head of government last December.
Simpson Miller said her administration welcomed new investment by the Dolphin Cove group, which was working on a new dolphin attraction and an animal park. This, she said, was expected to create well-needed jobs.
Additionally, she noted the West Kingston Power Partners' ongoing construction of a 66-megawatt energy plant; Hinduja Global Solutions, which started an information communication technology (ICT) project last month; Vistaprint, which expanded its ICT operations; and Sutherland Global, a call centre out of India, which is slated to begin operations in Jamaica next month.
7,000 jobs this year
According to the prime minister and PNP president, these investments will generate nearly 7,000 jobs this year.
Turning to the state of the country's economy, Simpson Miller conceded that Jamaica's economic situation at this time "is not good", but noted that it was not irredeemable.
She vowed to reduce the current poverty levels, which spiked from less than 10 per cent in 2007 to some 20 per cent in 2011 under the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
"I am determined to bring it back down," she declared.
"We have to deal with the economic situation. We have to fix it. We have to get it right," the PNP president asserted.
Simpson Miller blasted Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw for pressing the Government to correct the country's serious debt woes in nine months after, she said, he failed to tackle the problem in four years. She accused the JLP of moving the debt from $900 billion to some $1.7 trillion.
The prime minister pointed out that the country had to spend 58 per cent of the entire Budget to pay debt this fiscal year.
"That is the situation we have inherited. The Government has little money to do anything. That is the plain truth and I am here to tell you the truth."
Commenting on the elusive International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement, Simpson Miller said her administration had to restart talks with the fund when it took the reins of power, as the programme "had broken down" under the JLP government.
According to Simpson Miller, the former finance minister had failed to implement IMF conditionalities while he was in office. She said this denied the country the opportunity to draw down on billions of dollars.
"They broke it. Now we are the ones who will have to fix it."
She said her administration was "pushing as hard as we can to complete negotiations for a new IMF agreement as soon as possible".
The head of government shied away from providing a specific timeline for inking an agreement with the fund. "Every negotiation is a process. It is a delicate give-and-take and that takes time. It is difficult to provide a definitive date for an IMF agreement and we do not intend to make any predictions or pronouncements."
She stressed that the signing of an IMF agreement was critical to enhancing investor confidence and pivotal in unlocking hundreds of millions in foreign-exchange inflows from a number of international agencies.
She said the inflows were crucial in maintaining the country's net international reserves (NIR) and to keep the dollar stable.
The NIR has been declining in recent times to approximately 15 weeks of imports, while the dollar has been depreciating against its US counterpart, reaching a record level of about J$90 to US$1.
"We know that we have to make some difficult choices today in order to have a better tomorrow."
Targeting housing development as a means of stimulating economic development, the prime minister said her government would be providing affordable housing solutions for Jamaicans.
She has given instructions for new emphasis in six major areas to include more housing for deep rural communities. Nashville in St Mary is one of a number of new housing developments that have been identified.
The prime minister said an estimated $1 billion in new investment is earmarked for rural Jamaica.
CAPTION: An enthusiastic supporter calls for embattled PNP MP Damion Crawford to become prime minister. A number of party supporters from the East Rural St Andrew constituency, with whom The Gleaner spoke, said Crawford could continue to bank on a political career in that constituency. The supporters from the constituency, which has been in the news over the past few weeks because of concerns about Crawford's handling of issues related to his focus on an education programme, have called for their MP to