Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, continues to emphasise that the country’s macroeconomic achievements must translate into more meaningful gains for all Jamaicans.
Speaking at the recent National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) forum, held at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew, Dr. Clarke acknowledged that this translation is manifesting in several areas.
These, he pointed out, include increased employment, which has risen to more than 1.3 million persons, and a commensurate reduction in unemployment, which fell to a 10-year low of 9.6 per cent in January; low inflation, which came in at a 12-month out-turn of 2.8 per cent at the end of June, below the four to six per cent projection; and debt reduction, which has fallen from close to 140 per cent of gross domestic product, and which he said is likely to fall below 100 per cent in 2019.
However, Dr. Clarke said there is need for more than that, pointing out that the Government wants all Jamaicans to be able to participate in the “sowing, nurturing and reaping of the fruits of our economy”.
“It’s about (ensuring that) as we maintain fiscal prudence and we benefit from that and our debt is reduced, that these gains are felt by all people in Jamaica and by all businesses. That is the task and the work of this (National Financial Inclusion) Council,” the Minister said.
In this regard, he assured that the Government will continue to strengthen the institutional framework needed to underpin financial development and entrenched stability.
Meanwhile, Dr. Clarke underscored the private sector’s role in the Government’s implementation of the NFIS.
He noted that the sector’s focus on cost efficiency and digital finance made it a “critical partner” in the process of the Strategy’s implementation.
The Minister pointed out that progress has been made under the NFIS Impact Indicator, targeting an increase in the number of electronic retail transactions facilitated by commercial banks, from the baseline figure of 33 per cent in 2015, to 50 per cent by 2020.
According to the NFIS 2017 Annual Report, that figure increased to 37 per cent in 2016 and 39 per cent last year.
“I know that the Bank of Jamaica has recently authorised four electronic retail payment service providers, which is very exciting. It will add additional competition to the landscape… which should be to the benefit of all Jamaicans,” the Minister said.
He contended that these are the kinds of private-sector financial responses that will help to lower transaction costs, increase productivity in the economy, and ultimately serve to stimulate new business models that lead to development and growth.
The Strategy, which was launched in March 2017, is an ambitious portfolio of project activities designed to empower Jamaicans financially, through improved access to financial information and products to meet their needs.