KINGSTON — The country has been able to make significant economic and social gains, despite the continued effects of a fledgling global economy, says Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen.
Some notable achievements have been the government’s ability to reduce interest rates to an all time low, returning to single-digit inflation and sustained stability in the foreign exchange market, he said.
The Governor-General was delivering the Throne Speech, at the State Opening of Parliament, today April 14, marking the start of the new financial year, which began on April 1.
He pointed out that despite some setbacks, the Government has succeeded over the past year in stabilising the economy and has been able to meet the targets outlined under the Standby Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He asserted that the country is already seeing some of the benefits of this effort. “Interest rates have declined to the lowest level in almost 40 years. We have returned to single-digit inflation. There is sustained stability in the foreign exchange market with the Net International Reserves at a record level of US$2.6 billion,” he pointed out.
In addition to a stabilised economy, the country is also able to reap notable gains through agriculture and tourism, the Governor General said.
The agricultural sector, despite the effects of the drought in the first part of last year and severe flood rains in the latter part, again recorded growth, demonstrating the resilience of the Jamaican farmer, he noted. Tourism also continued to excel with a record number of stopover arrivals and record foreign exchange earnings last year.
The Governor General pointed to the opening of the new Falmouth port in Trelawny, which welcomed the world’s largest cruise ship, as well as the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James, as major developments that will further solidify Jamaica’s position as a preferred destination.
He noted that the bauxite/alumina sector, which was severely hampered by the recession, also showed strong signs of recovery, last year, with the re-opening of the Ewarton refinery in St. Catherine.
The Governor-General said these achievements are not sufficient to pull the economy out of the recession. He said although it is expected that the country’s economy will emerge from the recession this year, this is dependent “as much on our own efforts as it does on the external factors to which we are exposed.”
He also noted that the successes achieved last year did not come easily, but were made through tremendous sacrifices on the part of each citizen, as well as the Government.
The theme of the Throne Speech was: ‘From Stabilisation to Growth’.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter