Minister of Finance, Planning and the Public Service, Hon. Dr. Peter Phillip, said the Government is “absolutely committed” to the preservation of the social programmes necessary for the protection of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the society.
He was delivering the keynote address at the recent Guardian Life Annual Awards ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
Minister Phillips said that the administration is unwavering in its commitment, even as it recognises that “difficult adjustments will have to be made,” to address the serious challenges with which the country is faced.
He stated that the government is moving with alacrity to get things going and the most immediate activity is to finalise a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
An IMF team is in the island from March 7 to March 20 to conduct an Article IV review, which will serve as the start of formal negotiation of a new programme.
The Finance Minister, in the meantime, commended Guardian Life for achieving and sustaining 13 years of business in Jamaica, noting that the company is a leader in the insurance industry in Jamaica.
He said that the insurance industry is an essential pillar of Jamaica’s financial sector citing recently released data, which indicate that the sector has been steadily growing.
Preliminary unaudited data from the Financial Services Commission (FSC)) shows that the total assets of the life insurance industry in Jamaica exceeded $189.5 billion as at December 31, 2011, which represents an increase of 7.8 per cent over the $175.8 billion figure of December 31, 2010.
All companies, based on assessment, are well capitalized with low risk of insolvency.
With respect to earnings, the sector recorded aggregate total income of $48.4 billion for the 12 months ending December 31, 2011, based on FSC unaudited data. The figure reflects an 8.1 per cent improvement over the comparative period. Importantly, during the 12-month period to 2011 December 31, the industry recorded aggregate net income of $11.6 billion, which reflected a 15.7 per cent growth over the corresponding period in 2010 of $9.6 billion.
According to the Minister, “all these indicators suggest a sector which is strong, vibrant and robust and are a part of our intention to create macroeconomic stability, including the maintenance of low interest rates, a stable foreign exchange rate and fiscal prudence."
The Minister charged the industry to seek to achieve increased “operational excellence” as this will become “a more critical success factor for insurance companies, since attaining organic growth is becoming more difficult in a very competitive market."
He further advised that in the light of an ageing regional population, life insurers should be encouraged to tap into the growing retirement market.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter