A collision course with COVID-19

Letters to the Editor

A collision course with COVID-19

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Robust multilateral cooperation will be essential for developing countries like Jamaica to overcome the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, including forgiving loans to these financially constrained economies facing health and financial shocks.

The COVID-19 crisis is the canary in the coal mine for the Andrew Holness Administration that finds itself at the end of the queue for testing kits, ventilators, masks, hand sanitisers, and gloves because of their dependence on imported supplies.

“Global protectionism has prevailed, with more than 70 countries imposing restrictions on the export of medical materials,” John Nkengosong, head of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent commentary.

The Government of Jamaica is providing a $25-billion stimulus, the largest stimulus in Jamaica's history. Notwithstanding all the stimulus spending, the economy is going to contract, and fast. Jamaica is expected to run a debt equivalent to 103.30 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2018-2024 figures.

“In 2019 Jamaica's net international reserve (NIR) was at US$3.7 billion and could buy 32 weeks of goods and 22 weeks of goods and services.” ( The Gleaner, October 16, 2019). NIR is defined as the difference between Jamaica's foreign exchange assets and its foreign exchange liabilities.

A few months ago if the Government had said it needed to find billions of dollars to prop up the country's public health sector, voters and the Opposition would have reacted like the car owner who had an accident and found out that the insurance had expired. Given that the Jamaican economy is in a serious collision with COVID-19, a better public health insurance policy going forward will be a case of spending pennies to save dollars and lives.

Warm regards,

Barrington A Morrison

North York, Ontario

Canada

barrmorr@rogers.com


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