IMF deal to be kept in check
THE GOVERNMENT has announced the establishment of a coordinating and implementing unit in the Ministry of Finance to ensure the targets under the next programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are met.
Speaking last night during an address to the nation with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips said the unit, which is to be in place by the end of March, will be staffed with persons recruited from outside and within the public sector.
Phillips said the unit would be charged "with nothing else than ensuring that everyone - all agencies and departments 'get with the programme' and meet the timelines".
At the same time, Phillips said the Government would be putting in place an Economic Programme Oversight Committee, which will be made up of stakeholder representatives such as the private sector and trade unions.
This committee, Phillips said, will among other things, monitor the compliance and progress of the ministries, departments and agencies with the implementation of the IMF agreement.
"This is an unprecedented step of public accountability and transparency," Phillips said.
The finance minister announced the implementation of the unit and committee as he sought to assure the nation that the new IMF programme would not suffer the fate of the 2010 agreement which went awry in 2011.
Pointing to prior actions that the country will have to take in order to secure the support of the IMF Board, Phillips said Jamaica would have to take concrete steps to reduce and virtually eliminate discretionary tax waivers.
He promised to provide the Parliament with details on this issue later this week.
The finance minister also signalled that there would have to be a significant reduction in the country's wage bill as a per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
"We will also need to have a contract in place with public-sector workers which will enable the achievement of a wage-to-GDP ratio of nine per cent by 2015-2016," Phillips said.
He said the Government was in active discussion with the representatives of public-sector workers to achieve this objective.
In the meantime, Phillips said the Government would intensify its tax-reform efforts and, in particular, virtually eliminate discretionary waivers while strengthening the Tax Administration Department.
Simpson Miller told the nation last night that her Government was currently finalising another agreement with the IMF.
Phillips said he was "satisfied that the agreement we are currently finalising is the best we could negotiate for Jamaica".
"However, the implementation process will require a national effort and a contribution from everyone. Even as we try to minimise the impact of the sacrifice we will all be called upon to make, we must seek to protect the poor and the vulnerable," Phillips said.