Last week in Parliament, Finance Minister Peter Phillips began the job of placing the Government's slowly emerging economic policies into a strategic framework.
He insisted that the timeline for the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was on track and outlined a series of impending investments that will kick-start economic growth. We welcome this.
However, Dr Phillips, and the administration more broadly, miss the point of credible critics of how the Government has managed the country's economic affairs.
For most serious people, the issue is not the time it is taking for the Government to complete an agreement with the IMF. Their concern, including this newspaper's, is the lack of urgency with which the Simpson Miller administration has gone about implementing the programmes that will underpin the agreement and support its objectives.
The crux of Jamaica's current economic crisis is its outsized national debt, which, we believe, is understated at 140 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Sixty cents of every dollar budgeted by the Government goes to servicing the debt. After debt servicing, the Government has enough to pay public servants only 18 cents on the dollar of their wages.
So the Government has to borrow to cover the shortfall and to meet other payments. Or, as it is being told to do by the IMF, it can cut its expenditure as well as establish rules, with appropriate sanctions, to ensure that it does not again go off on a debt binge.
These are not easy things to do. But the options are limited and they are best done early in the life of a government, when it has political capital.
Our concern is that for the better part of a year, the Government has dithered on public-sector reform, pension reform and tax reform. These are part of the mix to cut expenditure, balancing the budget by 2016, while bringing the debt down significantly from 140 per cent of GDP. An IMF agreement does not have to be in place for these programmes to be advanced - not if our Government owns them and does not see them as impositions by the Fund. Nor should it have taken so long for the Government to bring legislation to establish credible caps on the growth of the debt.
As Dr Phillips noted, the objective of this programme is to provide an economic environment for "faster, more sustainable growth". But as the minister knows, and as he often reminds his predecessor, declaring a policy is not its implementation.
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