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  • Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Co-Chair, Richard Byles, says the Government should give consideration to maintaining fiscal policies being implemented under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF), when the agreement expires in March 2017.
  • Mr. Byles was addressing EPOC’s monthly media briefing held at Sagicor’s head office in New Kingston on Tuesday (February 23).
  • He said the programme has been very beneficial to Jamaica in maintaining a tight fiscal policy and reducing the debt burden.

Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Co-Chair, Richard Byles, says the Government should give consideration to maintaining fiscal policies being implemented under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF), when the agreement expires in March 2017.

“The fact that the four-year EFF will come to end doesn’t mean that we can or should abandon the policies that were implemented and followed over the last four years…we still have to follow those; not as intense but we still have to be (mindful) about those policies,” he argued.

Mr. Byles was addressing EPOC’s monthly media briefing held at Sagicor’s head office in New Kingston on Tuesday (February 23).

He said the programme has been very beneficial to Jamaica in maintaining a tight fiscal policy and reducing the debt burden.

He argued that sustaining the policy measures would put the country in a position to further pay down the debt.

He pointed out that while the debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, which stood at 145 per cent when the programme commenced in 2013, has been reduced to approximately 126 per cent, and could possibly fall to about 120 per cent by March 2017, “it would still be a far way from where we should ideally be, which is 60 per cent (of) GDP…maximum.”

“The debt is a big sword hanging over our heads…we have to get rid of it as quickly as possible…we have to pay it…aggressively…and when we do so opportunities (will) begin to open up for (us),” he argued.

Mr. Byles said that whether or not Jamaica negotiates another IMF agreement in 2017, depending on the state of the country’s economy, “I would like to see the IMF continue to play a role….”

Regarding EPOC’s future as at March 2017, Mr. Byles said the Finance Minister and other stakeholders such as civil society, the private sector, and the trade unions would have to “come together to say whether EPOC should continue, and in what form.”