THE EDITOR, Sir:
Monday night's announcement of another debt exchange, just three years after the previous one, seems almost incredulous. That investors, including several pension funds, will be asked to take a hit yet again cannot be allowed without some fundamental changes to how Government operates.
I seek not to lay blame for whatever mismanagement or abuses have taken place in the past, as there has been enough of that. I simply wish to state that triennial debt exchanges cannot be a viable policy for managing the nation's debt and getting us back on a sound, sustainable economic footing.
Since it is clear that successive governments seem to lack the ability to refrain from digging themselves, and the Jamaican people, into ever deeper economic holes, maybe it's time we force restraint on them.
My suggestion would be to enact a constitutional amendment that mandates a balanced Budget. Such an amendment would allow the Government to run a deficit of no more than three per cent of gross domestic product for up to three years without the need for a super majority in both Houses of Parliament.
Beyond the three years, or in times of extreme crisis, a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament could grant a time-limited reprieve to allow larger deficits. Given the current set-up in the Senate, it would require agreement between both Government and Opposition that the breach of these constitutional limits is absolutely necessary.
Further, in order to determine the true level of the deficit, an audit officer, appointed by and answerable to Parliament, would assess the Government's finances, combining both central government and parish council liabilities along with other statutory responsibilities for which the Government would be liable in law.
This is the only way to ensure that future governments are prevented from squandering the sacrifices being made by investors, citizens and taxpayers alike.