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Potential earthquake could derail IMF programme

Published:Tuesday | January 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Karleen Black (left), scientific officer in the Earthquake Unit, speaks with Noel Arscott (centre), minister of local government and community development, at the press launch of Earthquake Awareness Month at the office of Disaster Preparedness in Kingston yesterday. At right is Argentina’s ambassador to Jamaica, Ariel Fernández.

As seismic activity in Jamaica continues to increase, Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott, who has responsibility for disaster preparedness, is concerned that the potential of a major earthquake occurring could derail the economic reform programme that Jamaica is undergoing with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Arscott, speaking at the press launch of Earthquake Awareness Month at the Office of Disaster Preparedness Kingston yesterday, said that steps had been put in place to address the effects of a potential disaster such as an earthquake.

Jamaica's economic programme is supported by a four-year extended fund facility arrangement.

"It depends on the magnitude of any disaster, but it has the potential to disrupt your exports, tourism sector ... so any kind of disaster has the potential for derailment. Nevertheless, the economic reform programme has been structurally sound and has been looking at creating resilience and robustness in the economy," Arscott said.

Claire Bernard, deputy director general at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), said that disaster resilience had been built into the programme.

Jamaica has enacted laws that prescribe fiscal rules and targets that must be met as part of the reform programme. There are escape clauses built into the framework, one of which relates to natural disasters.

"To emphasise how important it is to mainstream disaster planning into development planning, the PIOJ has been ensuring that in all of our discussions with our partners, we seek to put something in the programme to build resilience in the built and natural environment," Bernard said.