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'No more skylarking' - PM outlines economic programme and debt exchange

Published:Thursday | January 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

Prime Minister Bruce Golding has asked the nation for one more big push as the Government tries to get the train called Jamaica back on the right track.

While outlining the much-talked-about debt-exchange programme and the Government's medium-term economic plan, which has been presented to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Golding used a national broadcast last night to call for the support of every Jamaican.

In return, Golding promised the Government would place the country on a path for economic growth and prosperity.

"Some of you will ask: Have we not heard this before? Yes, you have, but this time it is different. It is different because under the IMF agreement we won't be left on our own. We will have to meet rigid performance tests dealing with, among other things, the fiscal deficit, inflation, debt levels and debt-to-GDP ratio.

"We have agreed to an intensive and extensive programme of monitoring and surveillance. There is data that we will have to transmit on a daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis. We will be subjected to quarterly performance tests with the first scheduled for March 31," added Golding.

He argued that apart from the IMF, the Opposition, the media and the public will be able to monitor the performance of the Government.

"It is a belt-and-braces approach because, make no mistake, we can't afford to deviate from this programme; we can't afford to slip back into the ways of the past. Slackness, skylarking and failure are no longer options that are open to Jamaica," declared Golding.

Under the debt-exchange programme, which will be launched today, holders of the $700 billion in domestic government bonds will be invited to trade them in for bonds of similar value, but with lower interest rates and longer maturity.

This should result in the Government saving $40 billion in the next fiscal year.

"I have asked the financial institutions for their full support. Tonight, I ask for the support of the individual bond holders - the businessman, individual investor, the pensioner who have invested in these bonds. You have earned good returns on these bonds up to now. Tonight, I am asking you to share the burden that must be borne at this critical juncture in our journey through this unprecedented period of crisis," said the prime minister.

He argued that though the individual bond holder would take a cut in interest payments, it would still be better than could be earned anywhere else in the world.

'Slackness, skylarking and failure are no longer options that are open to Jamaica.'