The Government has received an additional US$140-million World Bank loan support that will further bolster three key economic safeguards for Jamaica.
The provision will enable the Administration to boost the country’s resilience against natural-disaster risks, support human-capital development and strengthen the social safety net for the society’s most vulnerable.
A formal agreement was reached on Tuesday (April 30), following discussions led by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness; Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, and the World Bank Group delegation headed by newly appointed Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, Axel van Trostenburg.
The meeting was held at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), following which the announcement was made during a media briefing.
Mr. Holness underscored the importance of the focus areas, noting that the Administration’s sound fiscal management policies must incorporate the likelihood of all possible risks, particularly those that are weather-related.
He said data indicate that Jamaica experienced an estimated 26 natural disasters between 1993 and 2003, resulting in economic losses totalling J$2.2 billion, which wiped out about 1.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Mr. Holness said the Government, mindful of this and other climate change developments that pose potential risks to Jamaica, has been proactive in taking steps to develop financial instruments, in tandem with the World Bank and other international development partners, to provide safeguards.
These, he indicated, could include catastrophe bonds and certain insurance products, adding that the latest World Bank provision “will further help us to be prepared for these eventualities”.
Meanwhile, Mr. Holness said in building resilience and protecting the country’s economic gains, “we must never forget that there is still a high level of poverty in Jamaica”.
“So a part of our partnership with the World Bank is to figure out how we can improve the delivery systems… not just for social safety net services but for general public services,” he indicated.
The Prime Minister said the country will be advised of how this will be undertaken, “so that we can, actually, in a very targeted way, drive benefits to those who need them”.
In relation to human capital development, Mr. Holness argued that part of the thrust to attain higher levels of sustainable growth and eradicate poverty, “is improving the knowledge and information that people have”.
“What you want to be able to do is take that knowledge and transform it into human capital. That has to come through your education system, your training systems, and other mechanisms that translate knowledge into skills and attitudes,” he added.
In his remarks, Mr. Van Trostenburg, who was making his first visit to Jamaica in his new capacity, described climate change and resilience to the associated risks as “very difficult areas” for many countries globally, noting that there is major work to be done in effectively addressing these.
Regarding human capital, the World Bank Vice President said this is the “most precious resource” that any country possesses.
“The challenge is how do we actually nurture, develop and translate it, ultimately, into jobs and into prosperity. We see this as a core mission of the World Bank, and we are quite excited to work with Jamaica on this long-term agenda,” he added.
For his part, Dr. Clarke noted that the World Bank has been an “excellent partner” of Jamaica over the past 55 years, which “during the course of that time, has contributed to many signal achievements”.
“We look forward to working with you for decades to come,” the Minister said.