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Pleas for patience - PM declares economic programme bearing fruits

Published:Monday | September 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, president of the People's National Party, sprints to the stage, while security personnel provide cover during the party's 76th annual conference at the National Arena in St Andrew yesterday. photos by Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

Proclaiming that Jamaica is now reaping "the sweet fruits of sacrifice", Portia Simpson Miller, president of the governing People's National Party (PNP), yesterday pleaded with the nation for greater patience, stating that the journey to economic independence would be a "mighty task".

Simpson Miller, the country's prime minister, noted that many Jamaicans were experiencing tremendous hardship as a result of the country's economic reform programme, but said sacrifices would have to be made if Jamaica was to experience transformation.

"We are committed to ensuring that the gains materialise and that your sacrifices are not in vain," the PNP president said as she addressed the party's 76th annual conference at the National Arena. "I ask for your continued sacrifice and support. Together we are marching steadily along the road of progress to build the Jamaican dream."

hope just around the bend

She added: "We are approaching the bend, and eventually we will get around the corner, on our path to economic progress and prosperity."

The Simpson Miller Government is halfway through its five-year term in office, having won state power in December 2011. Her administration, however, has been receiving significant flak from the parliamentary Opposition, which has argued that the Government has been consumed with passing quarterly tests under the four-year extended fund facility (EFF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while failing what it calls "the people's test".

Under the IMF programme, Jamaica has committed to, among other things, reducing the public debt, reforming the public sector, conducting tax reform, and growing the economy.

The Jamaican dollar has fallen from J$99.33 to US$1 on May 1, 2013, when the IMF agreement was inked, to just under J$113 at the close of trading last Friday.

The exchange rate was J$86 to US$1 when the Simpson Miller administration took power in January 2012.

Public-sector workers have signed a three-year wage freeze, which expires in 2016, meaning five years of zero increase.

Simpson Miller, who thanked Jamaicans for their sacrifices but did not speak explicitly to the slide of the Jamaican dollar, which the IMF said was over-valued, told Comrades that through the new economic transformation programme being implemented by her Government, "Jamaica is weathering the storm and charting a clear course for brighter days".

Simpson Miller told Comrades that her party was determined to stay the course of economic transformation and signalled that management of the country's affairs cannot be business as usual.

She said her Government was "working hard to ensure that neither this generation nor future generations will have to face this pain of transformation".

"Our generation has a sacred duty and a moral obligation to secure our nation's future by bequeathing to our children and their offspring a better, stronger, more viable Jamaica," the PNP president said.

As part of her effort to assure supporters that the country is heading in the right direction, Simpson Miller pointed to last week's upgrade of the country's ratings from 'stable' to 'positive' by international ratings agency, Standard & Poors, as well as increases in tourist arrivals, a reduction in unemployment and the return to economic growth, to demonstrate her point.

"Jamaica is now well positioned to create a new economy. It is an economy based on innovation, fiscal responsibility and a major expansion in production and investments at all levels," Simpson Miller said.

She warned, however, that despite the progress that has been made, "we still have a mighty task ahead of us if we are to truly achieve economic independence".

"We have to sustain economic growth above the average annual growth rate of 0.8 per cent that has existed over many decades. We must reduce our public debt stock which had consistently been a burden on the backs of the people," Simpson Miller said.