Jamaica Gov’t setting aside contingency funding for coronavirus

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, says Jamaica is in a good position to respond to a possible coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

He said the Government has contingency provisions within the Budget to adequately deal with COVID-19’s onset, should this occur.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke speaking at the meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House on Tuesday, March 3. (Photo: Michael Sloley/JIS)

Additionally, Dr Clarke said the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), which has net international reserves totalling US$3.16 billion, has enough resources and the capacity to respond, “should the need arise”.

“The response would take the form of ensuring, for example, that we have adequate facilities for quarantining, which might mean preparing buildings [for that purpose], and that we have appropriate medication [among other interventions],” the Minister informed.

Dr Clarke pointed out that consequent on Jamaica’s economic stability, “our options are [greater]”.

He was responding to questions from members of the Standing Finance Committee of the House, which is currently reviewing the 2020/21 Estimates of Expenditure, on Tuesday (March 3).

“We stand ready… and if the situation looks as if it’s likely to escalate [in] Jamaica, there are measures that we can take.”

— Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke

Dr Clarke said the Finance Ministry has been monitoring COVID-19 developments globally and is in touch with the principal Ministries that could potentially be impacted. These include the Ministries of Tourism, and Health and Wellness.

Monitoring Ministries of Tourism and Health and Wellness

He advised that, to date, “we haven’t had any confirmed cases”, adding that information, through the Tourism Ministry, from Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) agents in North America “[where] a lot of our come from” suggests that bookings for March and April “remain robust”, based on the latest data.

“As at today (March 3), we are not seeing any cancellations in relation to forward bookings. But the information presented to me by the Ministry suggests that these could change overnight,” the Finance Minister added.  

Dr Clarke emphasised that the Ministry, and by extension, the Government, is monitoring the situation “very closely” and is being “very cognizant of how this could evolve”.

“We stand ready… and if the situation looks as if it’s likely to escalate [in] Jamaica, there are measures that we can take,” he assured.