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  • Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Co-Chairman, Richard Byles, believes Jamaica is much better positioned to generate higher levels of economic growth.
  • He said this is based on a stabilisation of the “basic fundamentals” supporting the economic programme.
  • Mr. Byles pointed out that the debt to GDP ratio continues to decline, falling to 120.2 per cent as at March 31, down from 145 per cent at the start of Jamaica’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement with the IMF in 2013.

Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Co-Chairman, Richard Byles, believes Jamaica is much better positioned to generate higher levels of economic growth.

He said this is based on a stabilisation of the “basic fundamentals” supporting the economic programme.

Among these, the EPOC Co-Chairman said, are the Government’s consistent attainment of the primary surplus balance, increased net international reserves (NIR), decline in the debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, current account to GDP deficit, rate of inflation, and high levels of business and consumer confidence.

Mr. Byles was speaking at EPOC’s recent monthly media briefing at Sagicor Life Jamaica New Kingston offices.

He advised that Jamaica surpassed the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) primary surplus and NIR benchmark targets for the April to June quarter, with impressive outturns of $26.8 billion and US$2.3 billion, respectively.

These are expected to position Jamaica to pass the 13th quarterly IMF review being conducted by the country’s Staff Mission Team, which is now in the island.

Mr. Byles pointed out that the debt to GDP ratio continues to decline, falling to 120.2 per cent as at March 31, down from 145 per cent at the start of Jamaica’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement with the IMF in 2013.

He indicated that the current account to GDP deficit declined to US$44.5 million at the end of the January to March 2016 quarter, down from US$105 million for the corresponding period last year.

As it relates to inflation, Mr. Byles said while the 0.9 per cent inflation outturn for the June quarter was the highest recorded since July 2015, the figure for the calendar year to date remained at -0.6 per cent.

He added that the figure for the preceding 12 months was 2.5 per cent, which was “very good for Jamaica”.

Mr. Byles said the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) latest consumer confidence index rose from 147.9 per cent to 155.6 per cent. This is the third highest figure since the JCC commenced the survey some eight years ago.

He indicated that while the business confidence index declined from 144.6 per cent to 141.6 per cent, the latter figure was the second highest recorded in that category.

Mr. Byles cautioned against complacency in the thrust to achieve higher growth, particularly as it relates to further reducing debt to GDP and effecting public-sector transformation.

In relation to public-sector transformation, Mr. Byles said its implementation is important in ensuring that the administration attains and maintains a public-sector wage to GDP ratio of nine per cent.