It is a great pleasure for me to be here.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, the Minister of Finance and Planning, the Honourable Peter Phillips, and other key members of the Cabinet for our frank exchange of views today.
Jamaica’s economic reform programme, supported by the IMF, with a 4-year, US$930 million Extended Fund Facility is off to a very strong start.
The fourth review under the programme was completed by the IMF Executive Board last week, on June 20. All reviews have been completed with all performance criteria met. This is an exceptionally strong record by IMF Standards.
The economic outlook is improving. Compared to a year ago, growth has picked up, unemployment has declined, inflation has been brought under control, the current account deficit has shown an ongoing improvement, and reserves are starting to recover.
Much has been achieved, and yet much remains to be done. In the first year of programme implementation, key reforms that had been pending for a long time were implemented—in particular, the tax incentive legislation approved by Parliament in December 2013, and the fiscal rule approved in March 2014. But there are other major reforms that are on the must-do list, including improving the collection of taxes, modernizing the public sector, and improving the business climate. Consistent implementation of these reforms will boost investor confidence and growth.
The programme has benefited from broad public support, and this will need to be maintained to ensure continued strong performance. Adjustment is painful in the short run. Many Jamaicans have seen their wages frozen, and are facing higher prices for food and other essentials. But with fundamental reform, the foundation for a better economic future can be put in place.
In the adjustment process, the most vulnerable must be protected. An ongoing emphasis on safeguarding social spending and increasing the social safety net is crucial.
Jamaica has the IMF’s full support. We stand ready to help in any way we can. But of course it is up to you, Jamaicans, with the public and private sector working in close harmony, to build a bright future for this beautiful country.