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Jamaicans expect more from International Monetary Fund programme – Phillips

Published:Wednesday | February 4, 2015 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
Contributed Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller gives an update on the progress of the Jamaican economy to First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, David Lipton during a visit to Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. on January 26. During the visit Simpson Miller addressed members of the Congressional Black Caucus, senior members of the United States Congress, as well as the Department of State.

Finance and Planning Minister Dr Peter Phillips has suggested that it is critical to further increase economic growth to maintain broad support for Jamaica's economic support programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because, though it has performed as expected so far, the public expects more.

Jamaica also needs more support from the international community to finance the economic reform programme, he said, sentiments also expressed by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller as she enlisted the help of the Congressional Black Caucus in encouraging more United States businesses to invest in Jamaica to boost growth.

Asked whether, two years into the programme, the results have been in line with his expectations, Phillips told IMF resident representative, Bert van Selm, in an interview for the January 2015 issue of Caribbean Corner, the Fund's newsletter for the Caribbean: "In short, so far, so good. The fiscal consolidation has been strenuous, and significant sacrifices have been made by public sector workers, creditors, and the general population."

He added that "prudent macroeconomic policy has been supported by a broad consensus. The Economic Programme Oversight Committee, set up at the start of the programme with representation from government, private sector and the unions, has played a key role in building and maintaining that consensus."

Phillips said "economic indicators are trending in the right direction, growth is back, public debt is coming down, inflation has been contained".

The finance minister added that more could be done to improve the business climate, by better facilitation of private-sector growth by the public sector, and public-private partnerships could be used to boost growth.

"But we also need more support from the international community to finance our economic reform programme," he said.

"Small countries can very easily slip off the agenda of global policy makers. But our problems and needs, if not addressed, can lead to problems that extend far beyond their shores. The international community needs to be more responsive to the Caribbean," Phillips told the IMF representative.

In Washington, DC, last week, Simpson Miller expressed gratitude to members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the US House of Representatives for their relentless and critical support when Jamaica sought to secure funding under an agreement with the IMF in 2012.

She told them that the country was now focused on achieving higher levels of growth and job creation under the economic reform programme, and it was in that regard that she enlisted their support.

Noting that Jamaica was attracting major investments from as far as China, the prime minister said the conditions were being created for American investors to take up opportunities in the country.

"The Government commits to developing and implementing the right mix of policies to create the environment for business and commerce to flourish," she said.

Opportunities for investment, she said, existed in areas such as physical and economic infrastructure, including the further privatisation and expansion of sea and air ports.

Simpson Miller said the conversion of more efficient, less expensive-energy production plants, to boost growth and jobs, was high on the national agenda and was an area ripe for US investments.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com