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Challenging financial portfolio

Published:Sunday | April 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Minister of Finance Dr Peter Phillips is asserting that he has a firm grasp on the financial riddle gripping Jamaica and is ready to make some decisive moves.

Phillips told The Sunday Gleaner that the first 100 days in office as finance minister could be described by one word, challenging.

"I would say it was challenging but I think we are on the way forward as we had committed to starting the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) early and they are under way," Phillips said.

One hundred days ago, in the midst of the PNP's celebrations, the stolid Phillips was saddled with the tough finance portfolio at a time when the world was in an economic whirl and the local economy in trouble.

negotiations

Phillips remained impassive as all eyes were riveted on him when then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller declared during the pre-election leadership debate that the IMF negotiations were in a mess and her Cabinet would within two weeks of taking office restart the negotiations with the feared fund.

Simpson Miller's announcement sparked a flurry of public debate and discussion as to what would happen.

It was unclear to many Jamaicans whether Simpson Miller expected the talks to be completed in two week or that the negotiations would begin within a fortnight of a PNP election victory.

Phillips has survived the first unsettling hundred days and insisted that while he did not approach the so-called economic muddle with great expectations or trepidation, in the aftermath of the December general election, the mysteries he unearthed were much more than anticipated.

"I was prepared to deal with what we found but it turned out to be worse, but I don't want to make much of that as I am looking to the challenges we face," Phillips told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We have re-established a relationship with the (IMF); the Inter-American Development Bank and others (multilateral organisations) but that process is incomplete.

"We now have got a handle on the what was a Budget issue and fiscal deficit, which we have done and cleared up a lot of arrears and problem with the Career Advancement Programme and got the negotiations back on track," he asserted.

Asked what could be expected of him over the next 100 days, Phillips was non-committal, saying his vision was more extensive.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com