Speech

Mr President,

Jamaica is honoured to speak at this high-level plenary of the 108th Session of the International Labour Conference, to commemorate the Centenary of this most important global institution.

Jamaica’s democracy was born out of the struggle of the labour movement. Labour is a respected and deeply integrated partner in the tripartite collaborative culture that is a feature of our sociopolitical system. Indeed, Labour has been a critical partner in overcoming political and economic crises in Jamaica throughout the last century and certainly since our Independence in 1962.

A decade ago, Jamaica teetered on the brink of economic collapse. The global financial meltdown at the time exposed the weak foundations of the Jamaican economy. The truth is for decades we had defied economic logic in the management of our fiscal affairs and now we had to reckon with it.
• Our national debt reached an unsustainable high of almost 150% of GDP,
• our net international reserve fell to dangerously low levels, and
• by 2013 overall unemployment stood at almost 16% and youth unemployment was almost 36%.

In the face of this national crisis, Jamaica engaged a tough IMF programme requiring at the time a rescheduling of local debt and a commitment to a primary surplus of 7.5% and deep structural and institutional reforms to our public sector pension system and the national wage bill.

Success in overcoming this crisis meant that all stakeholders, the government, private sector, and the unions had to sacrifice. There had to be a consensus on sacrifice.

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