Government Senator, Don Wehby, has commended the Government’s prudent fiscal management of the economy, particularly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“In my opinion, this Government gets an A-plus for its management of the economy through this crisis,” he said.
Senator Wehby, who was closing the State of the Nation Debate in the Upper House recently, highlighted some of the economic achievements in 2021, which were underpinned by the Government’s prudent management.
These include economic growth of 12.9 per cent in the second quarter and another 5.8 per cent for the third quarter of the year.
“The growth exceeds the pace of recovery of our Caribbean peer countries. This is a clear testimony to Jamaica’s resilience as a country, but we are not out of the woods yet. We’ll have to continue to make decisions that will help us to achieve full recovery to pre-pandemic performance,” he said.
In addition, he noted the increase in the Net International Reserves (NIR) moving from US$3.42 billion in May 2021 to US$3.88 billion at the end of August 2021, and Standard & Poor’s affirmation of Jamaica’s B+ credit rating in October and revising of the country’s economic outlook from negative to stable.
The Government Senator also highlighted the Government’s continued support for micro, small and medium-sized (MSMEs) businesses, with the launch of a $3-billion SERVE Jamaica Programme to help entities reset their operations.
He noted that MSMEs account for 90 per cent of all firms, 60 per cent of employment and 40 to 60 per cent of the input for most economies.
“This is going to help the cookshop owner. It’s going to help the hairdresser, the plumber, the barber, the furniture man around the road, not the large companies but those small companies that put food on the table for so many families while contributing to national development,” he pointed said.
Senator Wehby noted that business and consumer confidence improved in the fourth quarter of 2021 to the highest level for the year and is “positive sign as we continue to lay the foundation for economic recovery”.
He said that the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ) registered 17,039 businesses and 4,817 companies in 2021, representing a 33 per cent increase in business and company registration over 2020. “This is fantastic in terms of these businesses formalising to seize growth opportunities,” he pointed out.
For the upcoming fiscal year, Senator Wehby said that the debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to fall to 97 per cent.
“This is based on the projections for economic growth for 2021. To place this in context, the debt-to-GDP ratio at the end of 2016 to 2017 was115 per cent, so we have moved from 115 per cent to 97 per cent despite this terrible COVID-19 and contractions. If that is not good management of the economy, then I don’t know want is,” he added.
He said that the Government will have to “plan accordingly” to withstand economic challenges, such as global inflation in 2022.
“We are an import-dependent country…we import $1 billion of food stuff and when you look at the big United States, their inflation rate is seven per cent and growing; that’s the highest since June 1982… . I see the headwinds coming and we are going to have to plan accordingly,” he pointed out.