Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke, says the country’s ability to be fiscally responsible has greatly enhanced its standing with international lending agencies.
He noted that this is further amplified by the country having successfully completed two back-to-back reform programmes with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“The results…speak for themselves… . The results have been remarkable to all who have paid attention. Not only have we been able to reduce debt by half the gross domestic product (GDP) but we have had inflation being moderate over the last four or five years at three per cent to four per cent,” Dr. Clarke said.
“More people are employed today than in the country’s entire history”— Dr Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and the Public Service
“We have had a return to external sustainability, especially with the reserves in our central bank. We have had consistent and elevated levels of foreign direct investment, while unemployment is at the lowest level in our history,” he added.
The Minister was speaking at the LAC Debt Group XV Annual Meeting at the Secrets Resort in Montego Bay on October 3.
Speaking within the context of an unemployment rate in March 2013 of 16 per cent to an unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent as at April 2019, Dr. Clarke pointed out that “it tells a tale of a country which has been having a complete reversal of fortunes for the better”.
“Never before in the entire history of Jamaica has unemployment been so low. More people are employed today than in the country’s entire history. We have seen fiscal space being created by the downward trajectory of debt that has allowed for a rapid increase in capital expenditure –an increase by 250 per cent over the past four years,” the Finance and the Public Service Minister stated.
Dr. Clarke also informed that the country has experienced its longest quarterly stretch of economic growth.
“Twenty-five years ago, we were only measuring growth on an annual basis. We are now in our 18th consecutive quarter of economic growth, and even though the levels are not where we would want them to be, they have, however, doubled our 40-year historical average,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Dr. Clarke said while Jamaica is not yet out of the woods, he is confident that the systems are in place where “we can build on what we have”.
He also mentioned the proposed Fiscal Council, which will be the final arbiter of Jamaica’s Fiscal Rules that stipulate, among other things, a debt-reduction target of 60 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by financial year 2025/26.