Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips says the economy will achieve significant growth in the near future, given huge investments in infrastructural development as well as in agriculture, tourism and other sectors.
Addressing a Social Development Commission (SDC) parish forum, held on January 31, at St. Hilda’s High School, in Brown’s Town, St. Ann, Dr. Phillips emphasised that the Government’s determination to cut the nearly US$1 billion annual food import bill; the additional 2,000 hotel rooms that are coming on stream, and the continued expansion of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, represent “the most attractive opportunities for growth.”
“I believe that we are entering a period of immense prospect for significant growth in the country. The Government is moving with a series of agro parks, involving more than 8,000 acres of production that will enable us, and those willing to invest alongside the Government’s provision of infrastructure, to reduce that food import bill. It will not only put people to work, but it will enhance the food security of the country,” the Minister told the audience.
He added that the current economic pursuit by the Government is not a prerogative merely imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but one that Jamaica must undertake in the interest of a sustainable economic future.
“What we need to do to correct and steady Jamaica’s economic ship, is not something that the IMF needs to impose on us, it is something that we need to do, because it is the responsibility of any independent country to take the decisions that will allow us to progress as a country,” the Minister said.
He noted that an IMF team will visit Jamaica within the next three weeks, and once the talks go well, a deal with the Fund would not be too far off.
The Minister said the huge national debt has almost stalled further efforts to build new schools and health facilities, and tackle criminal activities.
“We are approaching the debt issue as a condition of national economic emergency, in order that we do not forfeit the development prospect, not only of our generation, but even more importantly, of the generations that will come after us, and to whom we are obligated,” Dr. Phillips argued.
Dr. Phillips praised the trade union leaders for their understanding of the challenges facing the country, and the need for the Government to reduce the wage bill.