Minister of Finance and Planning, Hon. Dr. Peter Phillips, said the government will be focused on reducing the debt burden in order to achieve sustained economic growth and foster investment activity.
“We want to emphasise that growth is our primary objective and not only are we going to contribute to growth by reducing the appetite of the state for debt, and thus keep interest rates low to facilitate investment, but, we are also going to be prioritising major investment projects, within the state,” he said.
The Minister was speaking on Wednesday (April 11) at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Mandeville MegaMart food store in Manchester.
He informed that some of the investment projects will be done through public/private partnerships, while others will be undertaken by the state using innovative mechanisms. “We intend to do all we can to facilitate growth even as we cut back on the central government budget,” Dr. Phillips added.
Stating that the current debt level is unsustainable, Minister Phillips said that the government will be entering into a programme in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “that sharply reduces the trajectory of debt”.
“We are committed to a medium-term economic programme, which will decisively reduce the level of debt that we are carrying on the public accounts. High debt, as we see from Greece and other examples, is a recipe for chaos, and for economic disaster,” he stated.
He informed that part of the debt reduction strategy will include budgetary restraints, which will be evident in the upcoming national Budget. “It is going to be lean, while trying at the same time, to protect the vulnerable sections of our community”.
The Minister made it clear that the task is not one that is being imposed upon the country by the IMF or any other institution. “Our fortunes are in our own hands, and we have to be determined that we are going to rescue the future prospects of Jamaica, and not simply proceed as if the solution of our problems rest somewhere else,” he said.
The Minister told the audience, which consisted of players in the business sector that the government will also be making it easier for people to do business.
“It is also being explored how a single development approval centre can be established so that, rather than moving the investor around to offices, you move the paper and the investor deals with one point of reference. Equally, we want to ensure that all the relevant fees can be paid at one point, rather than raising the transaction fees by moving people through a series of offices. These and other measures are essential for us to send the best signal that Jamaica is in fact open for business,” he said.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter