Minister Clarke defends Gov't taking money from NHT
Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer
In the midst of widespread criticism of the Government's decision to take money from the National Housing Trust (NHT), Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke defended the move saying it was one of the necessary actions aimed at preventing the country from falling into economic ruin.
"The NHT has the resources. If we did not do that, the consequences would have been grave," the minister said. He was speaking at a People's National Party (PNP) Region Five executive council meeting in St Elizabeth on Sunday.
Clarke went on to say that before the PNP came into power at the end of 2011, it had an understanding of the country's economic standing but was not aware of the full extent of the problem until the party returned to power.
"We came to office on the 29th of December 2011. We came understanding what the difficulties were, but we didn't know exactly how it would be. We left owing somewhere in the region of about US$195 billion, when we came back it was 1.6, nearly 1.7 trillion owing. Our debt to GDP ratio was, I think, 120 per cent, when we came back it was nearly 140 per cent," Clarke said.
BASED ON HISTORY
"If one remembers, it was our administration under P.J. Patterson who took us out of the funding of the IMF. When we came back we were in a kind of way having some relations with the IMF. We should never as a country [have] allowed ourselves to be back in that position," Clarke added.
He went on to say that in light of Jamaica's economic situation and an IMF loan that needs to be repaid, agricultural endeavours are the only way that the nation can ensure economic freedom for its future generations.
"We're going to have to produce as we have never produced before," Clarke said.
The minister said that a major part of the problem was the nation's unsustainable US$1 billion import bill, and noted that there needed to be a shift in the attitude of Jamaicans, who seem to have a preference for imported goods rather than the ones produced by local farmers, if this bill should be reduced.