JIS News

Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson has said that the government was exploring a number of options to further bring down interest rates to “friendly levels” for the business sector, and to facilitate a reduction in the Budget deficit.
In a national broadcast on Sunday (January 11), the Prime Minister explained that interest rates went up last year mainly because of the uncertainty in the foreign exchange market, adding that the market had since stabilized, allowing for significant reduction in rates. He pointed out that the most recent cuts in interest rates were announced on January 9.
Citing the government’s efforts to reduce the Budget deficit, Mr. Patterson said that although revenues for the fiscal period April to October last year exceeded the amount for the similar period in 2002, by 24 per cent, “two major factors aggravated our situation”. He pointed to the increase in interest rates and the growth in the public sector wage bill, which now accounted for one-third of government spending.
The Prime Minister indicated that there would be job cuts in the public sector, and gave the assurance that the government did not intend to arbitrarily reduce the size of the public sector “overnight”.
“We are working closely with the unions that represent public sector workers. Our aim is to come up with a solution that will allow us to cap wages, and to devise an acceptable formula which will ensure that there is no sudden large scale dislocation, either in terms of job cuts or in terms of providing core services to the people of Jamaica,” Mr. Patterson said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister assured the nation that the government had no intention of cutting back on critical services provided by some sectors. “We will protect our education and health services and the programmes for the poor, the elderly and the more vulnerable in our society,” he emphasized.
On the matter of the government’s cost sharing programme in schools, Mr. Patterson observed that some parents were delinquent, despite the reduced fees they were required to pay. “I appeal to those parents to live up to their responsibility, so that the entire system can work to the benefit of all our nation’s children,” he said.

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