Fiscal Council to Build on Successes of EPOC

Photo: JIS Photographer

Story Highlights

  • Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, says the Government is looking to build on the Economic Programme Oversight Committee’s (EPOC) successes, through the proposed independent Fiscal Council.
  • “There is a big social media push that I am aware of.  They are very big on Facebook and Twitter, and they continue to publish in the newspapers and hold their press conferences. They have been very successful in addressing changes in our fiscal affairs,” the Minister said.
  • Fiscal Councils are permanent, independent, non-partisan institutions that are created by legislation and staffed by competent, experienced and technically proficient persons who help to promote economically sustainable fiscal policies across political cycles.

Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, says the Government is looking to build on the Economic Programme Oversight Committee’s (EPOC) successes, through the proposed independent Fiscal Council.

This, he says, as Jamaica’s prepares to embark on a post-International Monetary Fund (IMF) era, when the current US$1.7-billion Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (PSBA) concludes in November 2019.

The Minister was speaking at a Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) public forum held at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, on Thursday (June 14).

Dr. Clarke noted that EPOC has been pivotal in keeping the public informed on developments regarding Jamaica’s economic reform programme as well as augmenting the domestic fiscal and monetary environment.

He pointed out that as an independent body, EPOC has enhanced its communication process with a number of strategies that did not previously exist.

“There is a big social media push that I am aware of.  They are very big on Facebook and Twitter, and they continue to publish in the newspapers and hold their press conferences. They have been very successful in addressing changes in our fiscal affairs,” the Minister said.

He indicated, however, that the Committee’s engagements are not embedded in law, but undergirded by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government and private-sector stakeholders.

“EPOC exists in the context of an IMF-monitored programme, where the Fund provided a lot of the technical capacity, technocratic analysis and policy advice. In a new environment where we are not in a Fund-monitored programme and the IMF is not around to do that, the capacity of EPOC, as it is currently constructed, (will not) have that capability. What we want to do is take that one step further and ensure that these functions are protected by  law and embedded in our institutional framework and fabric (by creating the Fiscal Council),” the Minister said.

In this regard, Dr. Clarke said it is intended to take the principles on which EPOC was established, enshrine those in law, “and then add the things that are missing – the technocratic capability and fiscal experience – and thereby, empower it”.

The IMF’s Mission Chief to Jamaica, Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan, also underscored the importance of the Government creating the framework that sustains the country’s economic programme in the post-Fund era.

Noting that the cross-cutting stakeholder ownership of Jamaica’s prevailing fiscal discipline “is to be cherished”, Dr. Ramakrishnan emphasised that there needs to be focus on maintaining this over the medium to long term.

“The policy role; I think that is where the Government’s commitment has to be retained, and that’s where I think the Fiscal Council would have a role to play in assessing whether the Government’s targets and the policies that are associated with it are in line,” she said.

Fiscal Councils are permanent, independent, non-partisan institutions that are created by legislation and staffed by competent, experienced and technically proficient persons who help to promote economically sustainable fiscal policies across political cycles.

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