I note with concern the statements made by both the Opposition Spokesman on Finance and the Leader of the Opposition, with regards to the recent Government Of Jamaica Team’s visit to the International Monetary Fund(IMF) in Washington; and consider them to be mischievous and full of cheap political opportunism
Here are the facts:
1. Last week Tuesday I informed Parliament that I would be sending a team to Washington D.C to have exploratory discussions with the IMF concerning a possible. Standby Agreement for Foreign Exchange Balance of Payment Support.
I dispatched Senator Don Wehby (who remains on the job until the end of July) to lead the team which includes the appropriate technical personnel from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, the Bank of Jamaica and the Planning Institute of Jamaica.
This was considered as a necessary precautionary measure having regard to the unprecedented fallout in revenue and foreign exchange earnings from the virtual shutdown of the Bauxite sector and reduced earnings from Remittances and Tourism.
In these sectors alone the projected fallout in revenue and foreign exchange earnings is 1.3 billion US dollars for this fiscal year.
As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product this is 10 percent and as a percentage of this year’s budget, it is a whopping 20 percent. This illustrates the seriouness of this situation.
2. I further informed the House that I would attend a Hemispheric Conference of Finance Ministers in Chile which would have in attendance the leaders of the IMF the World Bank and the IDB. This was a judgment call which I made and the Prime Minister approved the trip as the potential synergies for bilateral discussions was obvious.
3. I attended the Conference and had discussions with Mr Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, Mr Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the IDB, and Mr Nicholas Ezyguirre, Regional Director of Latin America and the Caribbean for the IMF. The IMF Managing Director Mr Dominique Strass Kahn, was unavoidably absent.
4. On Tuesday in Parliament Dr Davies asked me informally why I was not in Washington. I realized that he was not in Parliament the previous week when I made the announcement. I wrote him a note indicating that I had already met the senior IMF representative in Chile and a team was carrying out the preliminary exploration and exchange of information which are first steps before actual negotiations.
Dr Davies is well aware that the Minister is not involved at such a preliminary stage.
Given this background I therefore consider Dr Davies’ statement to be quite simply mischief making for political point scoring.
His statement, when combined with an equally irresponsible comment by the Leader of the Opposition, in which she suggested that I was going ‘hat in hand like a panhandler to the IMF’ are unworthy of the Opposition coming at such a time of crisis in our country.
5. As Minister of Finance let me state without any fear of contradiction that I have successfully restored Jamaica’s reputation among all our International Development Partners in Washington paving the way for unprecedented access to external resources at a time when funds on the International Capital Markets have virtually dried up.
As a result last year we secured commitments of almost 1.0 billion US dollars and this year we will be able to access in excess of that amount from the combined resources of the Multilateral Institutions.
This is no small feat as the previous PNP Government poured scorn on these institutions, ignoring cheap money and opting instead to borrow expensive money from the local and international capital markets, which today has left our country mired in a legacy of debt.
In exchange for this unprecedented access to these resources from the Washington-based Multilateral Institutions as well as the Caribbean Development Bank and the European Union (EU), the Government of Jamaica under Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s strong and purposeful leadership, has commited itself to significant reform in Governance to put Jamaica’s economy on a competitive footing in order to enable us to earn and grow our way out of debt through investment in new industries and the creation of productive and wealth creating opportunities for our people.
We have given the Parliament the assurance that we will keep it fully informed of our discussions with the IMF and we have briefed our social partners (Omar Davies and the PNP included) and will continue to do so.
I end by suggesting to the Opposition Leader, the Opposition Spokesman on Finance and his surrogate spokesman Mark Golding, that they seize this opportunity to become a responsible Opposition and show Jamaica and the World that we are united and genuine in our efforts to rebuild this resilient little rock we call JAMAICA LAND WE LOVE.

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