Jamaica has come in for commendation from the World Trade Organization (WTO) for initiatives to improve the macro-economic environment and to address crime and corruption, even while members have highlighted areas where improvements must be made.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, said that coming out of the WTO Trade Policy Review (TPR), held last month in Geneva, Switzerland, it was recognised that the country had made significant improvements in terms of financial regulation and stabilisation.
He said that efforts to reduce inflation to single digit were praised, so too the decline in the poverty index from a level of 24 down to less than 10. “They were very complementary about the JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange) bonds, which will save us some $40 billion per year in debt servicing costs, as well as steps to get rid of some public enterprises such as Air Jamaica and the Sugar Company of Jamaica,” he noted further. Dr. Baugh, who was reporting on the outcome of the review yesterday
(February 9) at a press conference held at his New Kingston office, said that the Vision 2030 national development plan, the National Energy Policy, the National Export Strategy and steps being taken to create anti-corruption institutions and reduce and eliminate crime, also came in for commendation. It was also noted that the country has remained a stable constitutional democracy.
Dr. Baugh stated that the WTO report on Jamaica was interesting, frank and encouraging and underscored that Jamaica has a lot of “global friends” who had the country’s best interest at heart.
“Jamaica was seen as a small vulnerable economy. They considered us as an open economy, having complied impressively with WTO rules. We had experienced varied growth over the period but overall, there was weak growth in the economy,” he said.
Dr. Baugh noted that among the weaknesses highlighted was the country’s loss of its preferential status and protected market access for sugar and bananas to Europe, “that we suffered from structural weaknesses especially low labour productivity, a poorly diversified productive base, and a narrow range of productivity.”
He stated that overall: “I would say the experience was a very good analysis of Jamaica, examining our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. There was appreciation of the difficulties and weaknesses and that Jamaica was yet to achieve its full potential.”
He said that the Government has the knowledge of “where the weaknesses are and what we need to do.”
“The Prime Minister is leading that charge to bring all the sectors together, not only at the level of Cabinet, but working with institutions like the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ); Bank of Jamaica (BoJ); and the Ministry of Finance and Public Service. They are working together, they’re developing the policies and you’ll hear about it soon and the Prime Minister, when he makes his (Budget) presentation this year, will show how he plans to put the measures in place that can start us on that road to that transformation,” he stated.
The TPR is a peer-review mechanism, which allows for the country being examined to first present a policy statement, and that statement, along with a detailed report written by the WTO Secretariat, are examined by a panel, followed by a formal question and answer segment.
The review focuses on members’ own trade policies and practices, but they also take into account the wider economic issues and the external economic environment that countries face. The process seeks to encourage Governments to follow more closely, the regulations and principles of the WTO in terms of market access, tariff infrastructure and to fulfill their commitments.
The review is carried out every six years and January’s appraisal was the third for Jamaica since the country became a member of the WTO. The last review took place in 2005.
CONTACT: O. RODGER HUTCHINSON