Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips disclosed yesterday that tangible support has begun to trickle in for the National Debt Exchange.
Phillips made the disclosure after an intense two weeks of meetings with a staff mission team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
"We have launched the debt exchange, but it has not been concluded at this point, but we can say that we have received the first orders under the debt exchange today (Friday)," Phillips told journalists at a press conference.
Chief of the mission team, Jan Kees Martijn, turned up at a press conference to endorse the programme that had brought immense public pressure on the finance minister.
"I have no idea who made the orders, but it's a good move, and I want to encourage all the others to step forward with their orders," Phillips added. "The next order of business is to complete the debt exchange offer in the coming week and to seek to finalise an agreement with our public-sector employees soon thereafter."
In continuing his quest to secure public support for the IMF's prior-action requirements, which he outlined this week, the finance minister emphasised that "everybody loses value, but without it, the loss of value will be much greater than it would otherwise have been".
NEED FOR PRIOR ACTIONS
Phillips reiterated that the initial endorsement by the IMF staff mission was subject to the completion of the prior actions, as well as the continued implementation of reforms.
"We welcome the conclusion of this round of negotiations and look forward to a similarly favourable consideration by the board of the Fund," said Phillips.
He continued to express confidence that support from the IMF would trigger a fund flow from other multilaterals, but indicated that his team had not yet quantified those benefits.
He stressed that the actions being pursued will add more certainty to the Government's ability to plan its expenditure over the medium term.
"They demonstrate the Government's commitment to changing Jamaica's prospects and performance," he said.
According to Phillips, the ultimate aim of any economic programme is to raise the rate of growth and real income.
"The growth strategy will centre on attracting significant new investment in areas such as agriculture, tourism, shipping, port logistics, business process, outsourcing and manufacturing," he said.
Added Phillips: "With the strong front-loaded macroeconomic adjustment, particularly on the fiscal side, implementing initiatives to protect the most vulnerable are particularly important in maintaining social cohesion, building capacity and improving productivity."