Think I might need shades: Minister of Finance says future is brighter than ever

Minister of Finance, Dr. Nigel Clarke

Minister of Finance Dr. Nigel Clarke, says that while “vulnerabilities” exist, Jamaica is finally in a different place of macro-stability, where its future is brighter than it has ever been.

Dr. Clarke, was speaking at Mayor of St. Ann’s Bay, Councillor Michael Belnavis’ Benevolent Ball, on January 25.

He said the positive prognosis stems from the collective effort of the Jamaican people, who, even in the face of stiff austerity measures, remained resolute and steadfast, “putting country first above self”.

“There is full expectation going into the 2020/21 financial year, that economic growth will steadily return to the previous trajectory prior to last September’s JISCO/Alpart closure,” the Minister said.

“The Government will continue to use all levers at our disposal to elevate levels of growth across the medium term,” he added.

Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO) decided in 2019 to suspend alumina production at the Alumina Partners of Jamaica (Alpart) plant in Nain, St. Elizabeth.

Image result for Jamaican bauxite industry

Dr. Clarke, attributed the closure of the alumina plant to “external shocks”, where alumina prices fell from approximately US$500 per tonne in 2016 to US$300 per tonne in 2019. He noted that “the storm clouds” of the JISCO plant closure will pass and Jamaica will return to higher levels of growth in the 2020/21 financial year and beyond.

 The Minister said that after factoring in the resulting 18 per cent decline in the bauxite/alumina sector, the Jamaican economy grew overall in the third quarter of 2019 by a modest 0.6 per cent, which speaks to the improving resilience of the Jamaican economy.

He further noted that there was growth in all eight service sectors as well as growth of 4.9 per cent in the manufacturing sector, adding that when combined, “this was enough to offset the steep decline in the bauxite/alumina sector”.

Dr. Clarke said Jamaica has also been experiencing the longest quarterly stretch of economic growth “since we started measuring growth quarterly”.  

“In October 2016, female unemployment was 17.5 per cent and male unemployment was 8.9 per cent for a gender gap of 8.6 per cent.  In October 2019, female unemployment was 8.6 per cent and male unemployment was six per cent, for a gender gap of 2.6 per cent. Very significantly, the unemployment gender gap has collapsed,” he noted.