Jamaica meets fourth-quarter target ahead of Budget
THE GOVERNMENT is declaring it has met the primary-surplus target and is on its way to passing a fourth consecutive quarterly review, under its economic programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The revelation comes as Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips prepares to table the 2014-2015 Estimates of Expenditure in the House of Representatives today.
Phillips told The Gleaner yesterday that he expects a positive review for the end of March.
Under the agreement with the IMF, Jamaica must achieve a 7.5 per cent primary balance or some $111.5 billion. As at February, $79 billion was accounted for, leaving the Government with a task of raising $32.5 billion in the last month of the fiscal year.
Meanwhile, Phillips said the Budget, to be tabled today, would be a tight one, adding that it represents the Government's determination to reduce the country's high debt.
"The Budget is a budget which maintains the course of fiscal consolidation and economic recovery. The critical thing about the Budget is that we are going to maintain our
commitment to the social expenditure, it is going to be a very tight budget, but we are going to continue the social expenditure and we are going to continue repairing our infrastructure," Phillips told The Gleaner yesterday.
The size of last year's Budget was $500 billion, having been cut from the $520 billion originally approved by Parliament.
Phillips told The Gleaner that the Government would be continuing along the debt-reduction trajectory and would be maintaining its commitment to low interest rates.
"We want to ensure that we relieve the pain by having sustained long-term job creation by virtue of productive activity and that can only occur if we keep getting the debt downward in the country so that you don't have the Government financing the country through debt," Phillips said.
But while Phillips is upbeat about the next IMF review, his opposition counterpart, Audley Shaw, has stopped short of labeling the budgetary process a three-card trick.
According to Shaw, the Government has not been paying its bills in order to meet the primary-balance target.
"It is literally locking down the country, nothing is happening," Shaw said.
"They are not paying their bills and it is making the Budget look like a joke. The Budget is being presented against a background where a true, full and transparent picture of the state of affairs of expenditure is not being told," Shaw lamented.
He continued: "The true state of affairs in terms of what is budgeted and what is contracted out and what is paid for is not being told and, therefore, it makes a mockery of the Budget."