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KINGSTON — Minister with responsibility for Information and the Public Service, Senator the Hon. Arthur Williams, says that the Government will remain steadfast in resolving the main issues relating to the ongoing discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on its Standby Agreement.

He said that addressing tax reform, public sector pension reform, the sale of Clarendon Alumina Partners (CAP) and the treatment of public sector wage issues were all "underway".

Speaking at Wednesday's (November 2) Post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Senator Williams noted that a report is to be made by the Joint Select Committee of Parliament, chaired by Minister of Finance and Planning, Hon Audley Shaw, on the Tax Reform Green Paper.

In the meantime, the Joint Select Committee on Public Sector Pension Reform, chaired by Senator Williams, continues to meet with a similar objective of consensus on pension reform.

"There are a series of meetings set for us to have a report for Cabinet and Parliament by early December, so that it can get to the stage of a White Paper before the end of January," Senator Williams said.

In respect of CAP, he stated that, while an agreement has been signed with a buyer, there is a provision requiring the other shareholder, Alcoa, to either match the offer or dispose of its shares within 90 days.

"Unless Alcoa agrees to abridge that time, we have to wait…so things are underway," Mr. Williams remarked.

Concerning public sector wages, he said the agreement for the seven per cent payment up to 2013, has affected the wage to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio.  

He explained that in 2009 when the Government entered into the IMF agreement, the wage to GDP ratio was 11.75 per cent. The agreement with the IMF is that wage should be 9.5 per cent of GDP by 2015, and in the fiscal responsibility framework, it should reach nine per cent by 2016.

"The IMF is holding us to the agreement that we made with them, as well as our own legislation to reduce the wage to GDP ratio," he explained.

Senator Williams said while the seven per cent payment will cause a spike in the ratio, the important thing for the IMF is that, over the medium term, Jamaica achieves the targets that were agreed to.

"That is our challenge, to ensure that the trajectory is in the right direction for getting to 9 per cent in 2016," he concluded.

 

By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter

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