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JMA will support stimulus if IMF pact unaffected - Pengelley

Published:Wednesday | January 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness (right) addresses the media the post-shadow Cabinet press briefing on the economy at the Jamaica Labour Party headquarters yesterday. Dr Horace Chang looks on. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

PRESIDENT OF the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association Brian Pengelley is supporting the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) suggestion of a stimulus programme to grow the struggling economy on condition that it does not conflict with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, speaking yesterday at a press conference at JLP headquarters, Belmont Road, said his idea of a stimulus programme should not be confused with a government incentive scheme.

He urged the Government to immediately craft a stimulus programme to grow the economy.

Holness argued that there were many projects languishing for years in parish councils and government agencies waiting for approval.

He wants the Government to fast-track the approval of these projects and have them implemented quickly so that young people can gain employment.

A great suggestion

Pengelley supported the idea of fast-tracking projects at parish councils and government agencies, saying it was a great suggestion. "If they can move to a fairly quick implementation, that would help create employment and some movement in the economy," he said. "The Government could declare 100 or 200 projects ready for implementation," he added.

Holness said despite anticipated challenges from commentators, the Opposition was putting its recommendation on the table. The JLP leader said he was expecting commentators to question "how the (Opposition) can consider stimulus in an environment where you have to contain your debt and there is no fiscal space".

Anticipating funding challenges in relation to the projects, the opposition leader suggested that the Government could seek financing from the National Housing Trust and the Mortgage Bank at reduced interest rates.

According to Holness, the country has been burdened by the Government's austerity measures under the agreement with the IMF.

He warned the administration not to introduce additional taxes, noting that social tensions were increasing in the society.

"We have been moving around Jamaica and what we hear from the people is that they will not take any more taxes ... . It is ill advised for the Government to place any more taxes on the table," Holness said.

He said Jamaicans have displayed "an incredible level of maturity" and an appreciation of the difficult macroeconomic circumstances.

"But there is a growing sense of militancy that after two years, there seems not to be any hope coming forward and that we are returning to the bad days of the early 1990s."