Minister of Finance, Planning and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, has assured members of the diplomatic corps of the Government’s commitment to economic reform, fiscal prudence, and the facilitation of business in order to stimulate economic growth, reduce debt, and satisfy the aspirations of Jamaicans.
In his first presentation to the diplomats this yesterday (Feb. 1) at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston, the Minister said that Jamaica must pursue growth as a matter of urgency, given the challenges of unemployment, decline in gross domestic product (GDP), and the debt burden.
The challenges, he said, dictate that the country moves swiftly to re-engage the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He noted that “a new IMF agreement is vital if we are to access multilateral support and (engender) confidence among stakeholders, both nationally and internationally."
He told the diplomats that the country has already held preliminary talks with the Fund, and Cabinet would be briefed on those discussions during a two-day retreat starting tomorrow (Feb. 2). He said that by month-end, detailed negotiations with the IMF are expected to begin.
In addition, the Green Paper on Tax Reform had been re-tabled in the House and the achievement of the new system of taxation is being fast-racked with the appointment of a new Joint- select Committee of Parliament and the commencement of sittings next week.
The new tax policy is expected to be reflected in the 2012/13 Budget. Among the other priorities of the new administration going forward include: pensions reforms to reduce the cost of pensions on the public purse; public sector wage restraint and cost-containment; renewed momentum to the divestment of state enterprises; diversification of the country’s energy sources; the facilitation of businesses; investment promotion and renewed emphasis on production and productivity.
The Finance Minister called on the diplomats, whom he described as “friends and partners over the past 50 years,” to resolve to face the lingering and even deepening economic challenges facing the global economy collectively.
Referencing a recent speech by Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, Dr. Phillips observed that despite the global challenges, 2012 “should be a year of healing” and for that to happen, “comprehensive solutions need to be put in place in a cooperative fashion.”
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter