Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
FINANCIAL SECRETARY Dr Wesley Hughes says there were no surprises on yesterday's first day of negotiations between Jamaica and representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Hughes told The Gleaner that discussions with the Fund have so far proceeded in a "spirit of frankness and openness".
He also said "(Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips) used the phrase that we are all on the same page" to describe the nature of the problems that were identified and prescriptions being proposed for the country's ailing economy.
The financial secretary could not say when Jamaica would be in a position to present the IMF with a letter of intent, saying the discussions have just started and there were complex issues around which a deal would turn.
"If we resolve all of these issues and come up with a programme, then the timetable that the minister set out to go to board before the end of the year is still on track," Hughes said.
Jamaica is seeking to get the stamp of approval from the IMF to unlock funds from multilateral agencies. The country is also seeking an agreement with the Fund in order to access balance of payment support.
Jamaica had entered into an 18-month standby agreement with the Fund. However, the deal collapsed after the Government failed to honour commitments it had given to the Fund. Those commitments included tax reform, pension reform and a reduction of the public-sector wage bill as a percentage of GDP.
Hughes said the IMF yesterday raised those issues as being critical to a new agreement.
In the meantime, Hughes said it was unlikely that Jamaica would be seeking a standby agreement from the Fund. He said while the discussions have not reached the point to determine the kind of agreement, the intention of the Government is to secure "a programme over a long enough period to ensure that we have a real solution to the structural problem that we face".
Representatives of the IMF arrived on the weekend and will be in the country until October 5. Hughes said the first week of the discussions is about data gathering.