Advertisement
JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Co-chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Richard Byles, is expecting a pick-up in the performance of the economy for March 2015, compared to February 2015.
  • He pointed out that one of the country’s critical economic indicators, the Net International Reserves (NIR) produced positive results for the April 2014 to February 2015 period, standing at US$2.317 billion, exceeding the International Monetary Fund (IMF) target of US$1.408 billion.
  • In the meantime, Mr. Byles said he is optimistic that for 2015 the country will experience growth in the third and fourth quarters for Agriculture, couple with continued strong results in the tourism and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries and a little growth in the Bauxite sector.

Co-chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Richard Byles, is expecting a pick-up in the performance of the economy for March 2015, compared to February 2015.

Mr. Byles, who was speaking at the EPOC’s monthly press briefing on April 14, said he has been given this assurance by the Financial Secretary, Devon Rowe, based on preliminary numbers for March.

He pointed out that one of the country’s critical economic indicators, the Net International Reserves (NIR) produced positive results for the April 2014 to February 2015 period, standing at US$2.317 billion, exceeding the International Monetary Fund (IMF) target of US$1.408 billion.

This positive performance, Mr. Byles said, is despite the country meeting its debt obligations and lower expenditures on oil, which has put the US dollar in a comfortable position.

“So, no challenge there for the country …so that is good news that the NIR is in good shape” Mr. Byles said.

In addition, inflation for February was reported at -0.7 per cent as recorded by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). This is the fourth consecutive month of negative inflation, which Mr. Byles explained has been driven mainly by the impact of lower electricity rates.

“To February, the last 12 months inflation has been a mere a 4.5 per cent. This is quite remarkable, because I believe the expectation was that inflation for the fiscal year, which ended in March, would turn out to be somewhere around 7 per cent, so it’s likely to be considerably below that 7 per cent mark, but we await the March figures of inflation to be absolutely sure,” Mr. Byles indicated.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for the fourth quarter of 2014 were impacted by the recent drought, which affected the agricultural industry. However, the EPOC Co-chair said preliminary estimates for the January to December 2014 period indicate that the economy registered growth of 0.4 per cent.

In the meantime, Mr. Byles said he is optimistic that for 2015 the country will experience growth in the third and fourth quarters for Agriculture, couple with continued strong results in the tourism and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries and a little growth in the Bauxite sector.

The EPOC Co-Chair noted that for April 2014 to February 2015 period, three of the key performance indicators fell below target.

These included a 5.5 per cent shortfall in the primary surplus target for April 2014 to February 2015 and a $12 billion shortfall in revenues and grants for the similar period.

“Normally this would be a worrying situation to have missed the primary balance target in February, but at the EPOC meeting the Financial Secretary, who is privy to the March revenue numbers, indicates to us that based on what he has seen we will achieve the March primary target of a $121 billion,” Mr. Byles explained.

He said the reason for tax revenues falling below target was as a result of a shortfall in company tax and general consumption tax, adding that the continued shortfall in tax revenues is of particular concern for the EPOC and the committee will seek to have discussions with the authorities to avoid this in the future.