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  • Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to fulfilling obligations in relation to social protection, as stipulated in the four-year EFF with the IMF.
  • This, he said, even as fiscal consolidation continues under the Economic Reform Programme (ERP).
  • Dr. Phillips said the Government remains committed “to meet, and as best as we can, exceed, as we have done in the past year, the stipulated three per cent floor agreed on in the EFF for inclusion in the Budget for social protection measures”.

Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to fulfilling obligations in relation to social protection, as stipulated in the four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This, he said, even as fiscal consolidation continues under the Economic Reform Programme (ERP).

Addressing diplomats at a special forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on Wednesday, February 11, Dr. Phillips said the Government remains committed “to meet, and as best as we can, exceed, as we have done in the past year, the stipulated three per cent floor agreed on in the EFF for inclusion in the Budget for social protection measures”.

“We…think it is important, as we proceed with fiscal consolidation (and other engagements), that we pay attention to the most vulnerable in the society, so that (a feeling) of exclusion and/or marginalisation does not become preponderant (and) that we are able to mitigate social tensions and divisions in the society that could arise,” he stated.

One manifestation of Government’s efforts in this area, he said, is the decision taken by the Cabinet to have the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) serve as a Poverty Reduction Coordinating Unit, “to see if we can get better coordination in the various efforts across Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), aimed at relieving poverty and devising effective policy responses.”

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister told the economic reform programme is bearing fruit with several successes to date.

These, include: successful completion of the seven quarterly IMF economic reviews; significant boosting of the Net International Reserves (NIR), which stood at just over US$2 billion at the end of January; reduction in unemployment by approximately three per cent “year on year”; and reduction in the balance of payments deficit from 15 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the start of the ERP, to 8.5 per cent during the 2013/14 fiscal year, with an anticipated outturn of 5.3 per cent for the current year.

Dr. Phillips also cited a “better than programmed” inflation outturn, which stood at 6.4 per cent for 2014, as against the seven to nine per cent projected; and revived economic growth.

Dr. Phillips said consequent on these, investor confidence in Jamaica has improved, noting that this is manifested in the 74 per cent increase in Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). This, he added, is complemented by improved consumer confidence.

The Finance Minster assured that going forward, “we will maintain our commitment to the 7.5 per cent primary surplus…and the elimination of the fiscal deficit in order to secure continued downward trajectory on our public debt.”

The forum formed part of activities, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, marking Diplomatic Week 2015, between February 8 and 13, under the theme: ‘Building Partnerships for Sustainable Development’.

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