Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller yesterday shied away from signalling to Jamaicans whether the country's fiscal position would be improved anytime soon.
Simpson Miller, whose administration is seeking an extended-fund facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), mentioned the multilateral only once, saying an anticipated deal is not the reason for Jamaica taking steps to undertake fiscal reforms.
"We are committed to pursuing sound macroeconomic policies, not as a condition imposed by the International Monetary Fund, but as the only way out of our economic underdevelopment," Simpson Miller said.
It was Simpson Miller's first address to to the nation since being sworn in for a second time as prime minister, one year and two days ago. The address comes days before she leads the Cabinet into its fourth retreat since taking power.
WORKING ON ADDRESSING ISSUES
The country is working towards addressing short-term crises and long-term development issues. Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips had targeted a 2012 year-end date for the completion of negotiations with the IMF, but was left with egg on his face when the timeline expired without a deal being struck.
Yesterday, Simpson Miller was silent about how soon a deal may be forthcoming, even as she told the country that fiscal discipline was required if Jamaica is to pull itself from its current position.
"We know that economic growth requires economic discipline, and we are prepared to exercise that discipline in the interest of our people," the prime minister said.
Simpson Miller had led the People's National Party (PNP) to a crushing 2:1 victory in the 63-seat House of Representatives. During the general-election campaign, she had promised deliverance for Jamaicans living in poverty and having difficulty affording a decent standard of living under the Jamaica Labour Party administration.
Last night, the prime minister said her administration came to office "at a difficult time, on the platform of people power, and I have never allowed that to escape my mind".
CALL TO ACTION
Last January, in her inauguration address, Simpson Miller said the mandate which Jamaicans gave the PNP on December 29, 2011 was a call to action.
"It is a signal from our people that we, the Government, must earn their trust. It also gives us the opportunity to ease the burdens and the pressures of increasing poverty, joblessness and a deteriorating standard of living. The mandate is a cry for us to restore hope," she said.
Last night, Simpson Miller declared mission accomplished in some areas.
"Our record over the year has not been perfect, but it has been persistent. We have restored trust, and brought back respect and decency to governance while making important progress in some key areas," Simpson Miller said.
The prime minister said the slippage of the Jamaican dollar has been a challenge to the Government.
"The Net International Reserves also dipped, but not our reserve of courage, determination and resilience in the face of the international economic environment and domestic challenges. Yet, our confidence in the Jamaican people has never been stronger," the prime minister said.
Simpson Miller said her Government was moving apace with tax reform, public-sector reform and pension reform, and was also "making determined efforts to reduce our debt burden".
The prime minister said efforts are being made to balance the books while balancing people's lives, arguing that "the most vulnerable must not be left behind on the track of economic development".