The Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) is reporting positive response to its ‘Pon di Corner’ community sensitisation meetings.
The sessions, which got under way more than two weeks ago, seek to raise awareness about Jamaica’s economic programme, which is underpinned by the three-year International Monetary Fund (IMF) Stand-By Agreement (SBA).
The precautionary SBA is an insurance against unforeseen economic shocks that are beyond the country’s control.
EPOC Co-Chair, Keith Duncan, said the objective is “to ensure that we talk to the people, hear what they have to say and raise their awareness”.
“We have to be able to share with the Jamaican people… where the plan (will) take us in three years’ time, and where we want to be at the end of it in 2019/20. We want to have a debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio of approximately 94 per cent; we want to have non-borrowed reserves of $2.8 billion and we want to have (ample) fiscal space so that we can spend money where we need to, so we can raise the quality of life of our people,” he outlined.
Two meetings have been held, to date, in Maryland, east rural St. Andrew, and Swallowfield, Kingston, and Mr. Duncan noted that the sessions generated “very interesting conversations and excellent reasoning”.
The EPOC Co-chair, who was addressing the group’s quarterly media briefing at the Jamaica Money Market Brokers’ (JMMB) corporate office in New Kingston recently, said the residents welcomed the opportunity to be included in the discourse, in order to understand and “own” the programme.
He said the meetings are also being used to clarify any negative perceptions people may have about the IMF.
Mr. Duncan noted that the economic programme’s outcomes over the next three years would determine the extent to which Jamaica engages with the IMF following the SBA’s expiration.
“Will we just need the IMF for technical assistance, or will we need another Stand-By Agreement? We have to bridge the gap and find ways (to ensure that the) Jamaican people understand and have a real sense of why we are where we are (and) how do we emerge from this, and you have to really have an open conversation with them,” he pointed out.
Mr. Duncan urged the media to support the public education campaign.
“This is a series that we are going to continue. We want to really ensure that we get out into the communities, talk to the people and hear what they have to say. Hopefully, it stimulates further conversations,” he said.