The country must work to reduce its debt, even as negotiations continue on a new standby arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Finance and Planning Minister, Hon. Dr. Peter Phillips.
Opening the 2012/13 Budget Debate on Thursday (May 24) in the House of Representatives, the Finance Minister said that as of the close of the 2011/2012 fiscal year, the country’s debt stood at $1.7 trillion or $600,000 for every resident of Jamaica.
“Let me make it clear, this is Jamaica’s problem and not that of the IMF. The bottom line is that we must set our debt as measured by its GDP (gross domestic product) firmly on a downward trajectory,” he said.
He stated that with the international donors withholding grant assistance until a deal is worked out with the IMF, it is imperative that the country develops the comprehensive policies needed to put the country on a solid path to reducing the debt burden.
In the meantime, Dr. Phillips said the budget debate assumes special significance this year, as the country is celebrating its 50th anniversary of Independence.
He said the country has a lot to be proud of, “for no one can deny the genuine progress that our country has made over these 50 years”.
“We have sustained and deepened our democracy; we have created a more egalitarian social order by providing unprecedented access to education and training at all levels and the improvements to our healthcare system have made life expectancy in Jamaica comparable to that which obtains in the developed countries of the world. Our performance in housing construction and the modernisation of our physical infrastructure is a source of national pride,” Dr. Phillips stated.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter