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IDB Says Institutional reforms helped in country's response to COVID-19

Published:Saturday | December 26, 2020 | 11:45 AMJIS
In this March 2020 Gleaner file photo a shopper pushes a trolley full of bottled water and tissue at Hi-Lo Food Stores on Old Hope Road in Kingston. The Inter-American Development Bank says institutional reforms have placed the country in a very strong position to respond to the economic and financial downturn due to COVID-19.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says institutional reforms initiated by the Government of Jamaica placed the country in a very strong position to respond to the economic and financial fallout, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its 2020 quarterly bulletin,‘Report: Institutional Reforms and Infrastructure Crucial for Future Caribbean Growth’, the IDB noted that the reforms enabled Jamaica to accumulate substantial cash buffers, equivalent to approximately four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and a large reprogrammable primary fiscal surplus, prior to the onset of COVID-19.

Additionally, the bank said cutting-edge policy frameworks grounded in flexibility, including a flexible foreign exchange rate and fiscal responsibility framework, have assisted in Jamaica’s adjustment to COVID-19 in a counter cyclical manner.

The IDB said despite this strong progress, Jamaica still faces challenges relating to the economy’s structure and performance, which underscore the need for ongoing reform.

It pointed out that the country’s heavy reliance on tourism for economic activity and foreign exchange revenue highlights Jamaica’s “extreme susceptibility” to external shocks, such as the ongoing pandemic.

According to IDB data, Jamaica ranks 17th out of 166 countries on the composite Tourism Dependency Index, with the industry, among those in the services sector, accounting for approximately 72 per cent of GDP.

It says structural and external vulnerabilities underscore the importance of institutional reform and capacity-building, noting that these are factors “most directly in the government’s control.”

It pointed out that recent efforts to this end have shown “tremendous promise” and can support faster growth and greater resilience in the near-term.

Pivotal pillars of the institutional reform agenda, in which the government has been proactively engaged, encompass prioritising key areas, such as education, health, infrastructure, and institutions of economic policy the bank said.

These include: strengthening tax administration to increase revenue collection and reduce evasion; bolstering public expenditure efficiency; and improving the public investment management capabilities of ministries, departments and agencies to aid in economic recovery and accelerate long-term growth.

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