Gov’t Holds First Conference on Economic Reform Programme

Photo: JIS Photographer Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (at podium), delivering the keynote address at Thursday’s (Sept. 12), Economic Reform Programme (ERP) stakeholders conference, hosted by the Ministry of Finance and Planning at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, under the theme: “Jamaica’s Economic Programme – Going for Growth, Staying the Course, Transforming the Economy”. Also pictured are: Minister with Responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer (left, seated); and Co-Chairmen, Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Richard Byles (2nd right); and Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) Governor, Brian Wynter .

Story Highlights

  • Prime Minister Simpson Miller, is re-affirming the government’s commitment to the ERP
  • The Prime Minister said “the country needs all hand on deck to get it where it wants to and must go”
  • The stakeholders conference forms part of the administration’s commitment to transparency

Prime Minister, the Most Hon Portia Simpson Miller, is re-affirming the government’s commitment to implementing the country’s Economic Reform Programme (ERP), within the context of the US$932.3 million four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF), negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Speaking during the first of two major ERP stakeholders’ conferences, hosted by the Ministry of Finance and Planning, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on Thursday, September 12, Mrs. Simpson Miller said her administration entered into the agreement with the IMF “fully aware” of the accompanying challenging measures, which must be taken to address Jamaica’s unsustainable debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, as well as to stabilize the country’s balance of payments.

She added that, as such, “we accept the need to reduce expenditure so that it is kept in line with available resources.”

The Prime Minister said while the administration recognises that “there is no (easier) alternative to the adjustment measures” being embarked on, they are equally aware of the impact these will have on the majority of the population, both the poor and persons with fixed incomes, and underscored the need for this to be kept at the forefront of all deliberations.

“It is imperative that we do not simply (only) emphasise the need for tough adjustment measures, but we also put in place specific measures which will lead to increased economic activity and equally important, increased employment opportunities. Simply put, in these deliberations, let us focus on providing a real basis for hope,” she underscored.

Against this background, the Prime Minister reiterated the four immediate priority focus areas, which include: reducing the debt to more sustainable levels in a short time frame, through fiscal discipline and other means of prudent economic management; achieving appreciable and sustainable economic growth and job creation; protecting the society’s vulnerable; and providing a realistic basis for hope to persons experiencing the brunt of the adjustments.

While acknowledging that the government “has to lead the way” in these efforts, she argued that “the country needs all hand on deck to get it where it wants to and must go.”

“Few, if any of us, can have any illusions that the objectives we have set ourselves are difficult ones to achieve. But achieve them we must, as we do not have the luxury of more palatable alternatives,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.

In this regard, she expressed the hope that the conference will “prove to be informative and put each stakeholder in a better position to know what he or she must do to get Jamaica on a path of sustainable and appreciable growth to the benefit of the broad masses of our people.”

In his remarks, Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, said the stakeholders conference forms part of the administration’s commitment to transparency in the administration of the ERP and EFF.

This commitment, the Minister added, also includes establishment of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), comprising private and public sector representation, including Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) Governor, Brian Wynter, who co-chairs that body; Financial Secretary, Devon Rowe; and trade unions and financial institutions.

He advised the non-governmental representatives have been “empowered” to make regular reports to the country, “of their own accord”, on the progress of the ERP’s implementation, adding that “they have done so”.

“This conference, and others which we propose to hold, (are) part of that commitment because, I think, it recognizes that the task of economic reform is not a task for government, it a task, indeed, for the entire country. We cannot approach that task with any hope of success unless we are able to be absolutely candid, absolutely open and, indeed, all focused on the same objective, as a country,” Dr. Phillips emphasised.

Co-Chairman of EPOC, Richard Byles, explained that, so far the 11-member committee, which meets monthly, has had the opportunity to review data from the Finance Ministry and hear presentations from public sector representatives on several key projects. These include: public sector reform, the agro parks, and the global logistics hub initiative. He advised that the will hear presentation on tax reform at the next meeting.

“So far, the process of how the EPOC works has gone pretty well. We have found that the public sector representatives are very cooperative and very transparent and I would just like to thank them, the Governor (and) the Financial Secretary, in particular. I think we have…good…team work going here and I certainly hope it will continue,” Mr. Byles said.

Thursday’s conference, held under the theme, ‘Jamaica’s Economic Reform- Going for Growth, Staying the Course, Transforming the Economy’ is the first of two, scheduled to provide updates on the economic reform programme.

Minister with Responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, who chaired the forum, said it is intended to “share some of the thinking” into the measures being pursued by the government to restructure the economy. This, she said, in order to discuss how the implementation is proceeding, and what is expected from the various stakeholders, adding that “we also want to hear your concerns.”

 

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