KINGSTON – Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, says while 2010 could have been Jamaica's "make or break" year, with national commitment, 2011 could be its "come back" year.
"If 2010 was a 'make or break' year – one which saw us edge away from the precipice over which we were hanging for a decade-and-a half… then we must all commit to making 2011 a 'come back' year for Jamaica," he told the House of Representatives, Thursday April 28, as he opened the 2011/12 Budget Debate at Gordon House.
Mr. Shaw explained the "come back" as a situation in which the Government builds on its fiscal and legislative achievements, "while private enterprise gets busy writing deals".
He urged the country to draw some quick inspiration from last year's achievements, but first, recall the magnitude of the problems the Government inherited after a decade of "low growth and unsustainable fiscal and debt dynamics."
He listed among Government's major 2010's achievements; 40-year low interest rates, single digit inflation, gross reserves at historic highs and a stable Jamaican dollar, "all occurring at the same time".
He also added to the list the divestment of "chronic loss-making state entities" like Air Jamaica and the sugar factories, the introduction of "powerful pieces of legislation" and the execution of the "world's most successful debt exchange".
"By any standard this was a massive list of achievements to clock in a single calendar year. Let us be inspired and motivated by it," Mr. Shaw urged.
However, he pointed out that there were significant challenges remaining, in terms of rising oil and grain prices, "and our vulnerability to extreme weather conditions".
"But, we must recognize that the stage has now been set for a credible transition to a new phase of economic development- the transition from stability to growth," he suggested. The theme of the budget speech was "Stability to Growth".
"Let us make 2011 a 'come back' year- a year in which the financial services sector puts creative products on the market, while the entrepreneurial spirit of Jamaicans is unleashed and soars like never before," the Minister urged.
He challenged the private sector to "re-tool, re-finance, refurbish" and challenge themselves to make a plan, develop a new product, seek new markets and develop an export programme.
"And let us all challenge ourselves to think big again. There is no time to waste. Thing are happening," Mr. Shaw said.
By BALFORD HENRY, JIS Reporter & Editor