Stay on course, Jamaica — CDB presidentFriday, February 14, 2020
BY MIGUEL A THOMAS
Speaking at the annual news conference at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) headquarters in Bridgetown, Barbados, President Dr Wm Warren Smith praised Jamaica for its achievements in economic reform, but was sure to advise that the country had more work to do to turn around its economic affairs.
“Borrowing member countries, like Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, and St Kitts and Nevis, must stay course with their home-grown socio-economic reform programmes,” he said as he delivered the review of the region's 2019 performance.
He suggested that a number of Caribbean territories had begun to see the successes of home-grown economic programmes, but medium- to long-term turnarounds required a consistence in the initiatives embarked on.
The bank president added, “Others should join the bandwagon and commence, with alacrity, implementation of their own adjustment programmes.”
Smith seized the opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the CDB to supporting the projects and initiative in train with such reforms, and said that the CDB will press on to be an effective partner in the mission for development and growth.
This, he said, will manifest in the CDB deepening its customer relationships and being more responsive to the needs of borrowing member countries.
Jamaica's public debt fell below 100 per cent of GDP in 2018/19 and is expected to decline below 60 per cent by 2025/26 in line with the provisions of the fiscal responsibility law. The country's rate of unemployment also fell to a historic low of 7.8 per cent in April 2019, which is almost half the rate at the start of the reform programme.
Dr Justin Ram, director of economics at the CDB, when asked about the performance of Jamaica in its mission for reform, said the country “has been making strides with its Doing Business environment, as for example, its Passport, Immigration, Citizenship Agency, which has done some remarkable things. And I think there are lessons that can be learned from the Jamaican experience... From what I understand, there's a possibility that you can get your passport within 24 hours… and I'm sure there are other government processes that have been improved upon.”
As such, he said the country could take a leading role in Caricom by signposting what systems have been implemented to achieve the gains made, so that benchmarks and best practices can be identified.
Ram added: “In addition to that I think Jamaica has done a great job with its stock exchange. There are perhaps lessons there for other countries on how to improve their capital markets.”
He added that the mobilisation of capital for productive economic activity was important for economic growth and any lessons imparted in this area would redound to the benefit of the region.
Smith, in discussing the path Jamaica has taken, said: “One of the reasons Jamaica is in a better position today than it was is that the Government took the decision that they wanted to address the fundamental issues that were constraining the country's development. Those were very, very tough decisions.”
He said remaining true to the mission, continuing the programme, and drawing on further expertise will advance the turnaround.
“The biggest factor in moving growth is the private sector,” Smith said. “Government is no longer the principal catalyst for growth…and in many respects from the Jamaica perspective that's a good story.”
He continued that the medium and small business sector was making strides that will have long-term benefits. He highlighted the success of the Junior Market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange and said the CDB will be working to position itself to be able to galvanise the development of that sector to spark further growth initiatives.
The CDB, Smith said, is looking to see what role it can play in this regard, and among the ideas on the table for consideration is the use of partial credit guarantees with financial institutions to see to more funding getting to the small- and medium-sized enterprise sector.
“We have a small fund in that regard, but we need to build it to a greater level… It's all a work in progress,” he closed, “but the leaders must stay the course.”
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