When Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her finance minister, Peter Phillips, broadcast to Jamaicans about the Government's latest round - the second in three years - of debt rescheduling, they promised to mobilise the country around the objective of debt reduction.
Their intention, they said, was to put the country on a path towards sustained growth and to limit the likelihood of Government having again to appeal to bondholders.
That promise was made more than a month ago. This newspaper, regrettably, cannot say that, in that time, the Government has given us cause to be sanguine of the administration's capacity to implement the policies it has outlined, or that it is keen to get on with them.
Indeed, we sense a lack of certainty on the part of the Government, suggesting that there may remain gaps to be closed if policy objectives are to be met.
If this is indeed the case, our suggestion is that the administration level with the people, which would be in keeping with its promise to build a national alliance around its economic-reform agenda. For, Prime Minister Simpson Miller should know, whatever its perceived advantage in the short term, the ultimate outcome of a strategy based on obfuscation and prevarication is distrust and an inability to forge consensus.
First, the restructuring of J$860 billion of domestic debt is, we have been told, to deliver J$17 billion in interest savings annually for seven years. It is supposed to be the most crucial element in the Government's strategy to reduce the national debt to 95 per cent of GDP by 2020, and a key prior action for Jamaica to conclude an economic-support agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Another of the IMF's preconditions has mostly been met - a wage restraint agreement with public-sector employees so as to reduce the wage bill to around nine per cent of GDP over the next three fiscal years.
Yet, the tone and action of the administration, and for that matter, our international partners, do not, from our vantage point, suggest confidence that all parts of Jamaica's policy jigsaw are now in place and ready for aggressive implementation.
UP FOR FORMAL APPROVAL
We had expected that the agreement between Jamaica and IMF staff would go before the Fund's executive board for formal approval this month, which can still happen. But we perceive no clear signal from either Washington or the Jamaican authorities of precisely when this will happen. This is surprising given the short term until the start of the new fiscal year on April 1, and when Dr Phillips must deliver a Budget.
Further, Dr Phillips has promised to put in place "a stakeholders' oversight committee" from the public and private sectors, trade unions, and civil society to monitor compliance with the IMF agreement, "with full authority to inform the public of their findings".
Even without the formal agreement in place, we would have expected that implementation of policies and programmes in it would have begun. In that regard, there is work for that committee to do. It is yet to be named.
The minister also intends to establish a coordinating and implementing unit, of talented persons, within his ministry to ensure that government agencies and departments "get on with the programme". The deadline for this is not yet passed. But where is the urgency?
The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: email@example.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.