Dr. Davies Updates Jamaican Community in Washington on Economy


Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies has reiterated the government’s resolve to achieve a balanced budget during the next fiscal year, despite the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan four weeks ago.He also emphasised that the country was committed to an agenda of economic reform and growth.
Dr. Davies was addressing the Jamaican community in Washington on October 5, after two days of extensive meetings with members of the international financial community, as well as members of the United States Congress.
Minister Davies was in Washington principally for the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He was accompanied by the Financial Secretary in the Ministry, Shirley Tyndall, as well as Locksley Smith, Chief Advisor to the Minister.
Dr. Davies also used the forum, in his capacity as Spokesman for the CARICOM group of countries at the meeting, to urgently appeal to the international financial institutions for assistance, particularly for the more adversely affected countries of the region, such as Grenada and Haiti, which were, like Jamaica, victims of recent hurricanes.
In his address to members of the Jamaican community, Dr. Davies registered the appreciation of the Jamaican government to the overseas community for its strong support in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, and invited Jamaicans to continue to contribute to the relief effort, as well as to assist Jamaicans on the ground in the rebuilding process.
While conceding that the impact of the recent hurricane would pose challenges for both revenue collections and expenditure for the remainder of the fiscal year, the Minister stated that the Jamaican government would not be deterred in its quest to achieve stability and growth in the Jamaican economy. He also noted that “returning the country’s fiscal operations to a surplus” was a critical part of the government’s “medium-term strategy towards sustainable development”.
Dr. Davies also informed that given the interruption of business and commercial activity in many sectors, as well as the closure of some revenue offices in the periods immediately before and after the hurricane hit the island, revenue collections for the month of September would be below target.
Noting that public expenditure for both relief efforts and reconstruction initiatives were inescapable, the Minister stressed that in addition to “prioritizing areas of critical need, efforts would have to be made to arrive at appropriate levels of financing for these relief efforts, through grants from external funding sources, and contributions from private sector partners”.
Turning to the country’s debt, the Minister said this continued to pose significant challenges for Jamaica’s overall economic viability. He asserted that the Jamaican government would continue to place the highest priority on debt management, even as it continued to build its net international reserves and promote stability in the country’s exchange rate.
He said that he was encouraged by the steady growth in private sector foreign currency deposits and promised that efforts would also be made to keep inflation in single digits, and to employ effective energy conservation measures.
The Minister pointed out that strong gains have been made in the tourism industry, and cited major key investments by international hospitality conglomerates, as well as increased investment by other local players in the sector.
Dr. Davies also expressed satisfaction with developments in the bauxite industry, which has witnessed unprecedented levels of investment and production.
Calling the impact of Hurricane Ivan, “another unwelcome blow to the already struggling agricultural sector”, the Minister informed the gathering that the estimated $6 billion losses sustained within this sector would have a measurable impact, not only on farmers but on the economy in general.
Given the scale of the devastation occasioned by the hurricane, the government has moved to provide $200 million in emergency assistance for the start-up of local vegetable and small stock production and has also granted waivers of import duties on certain critical goods currently in short supply.
Dr. Davies provided the audience with an overview of the current reconstruction effort, and fielded several questions.
Many members of the audience pledged their full support in working both with the public and private sectors, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in the current relief and rebuilding effort and assured the Minister of their continued commitment to helping the country’s overall growth and development.
Minister Davies was introduced to the Jamaican community forum by Jamaica’s new Ambassador to Washington, Professor Gordon Shirley, who commended the Finance Minister for his leadership, on behalf of the CARICOM states, in championing the cause of the region’s economies at the Bank meetings and in calling for the provision of greater levels of support from the international community in the aftermath of the recent natural disasters which have plagued the region.

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