Kudos and challenges for Jamaica

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, September 23, 2019

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Jamaica can be proud that we have been able to step out from under the wing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on stronger legs after a relationship which restarted in 2013 when the country entered into a four-year US$932-million Extended Fund Facility (EFF), followed by a US$1.6-billion Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), which ends in November of this year.

Former IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde addressed the Jamaica House press conference via videolink last Wednesday: “Through two programmes, two different [government] administrations with very strong commitment, you have managed to actually create jobs, to reduce the unemployment level to the lowest ever, you've reduced debt by 50 percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP), you've managed to stabilise inflation, and you've managed to accumulate reserves.”

She tweeted: “Congratulations @AndrewHolnessJM and #Jamaica for a successful program that has helped the Jamaican people. Jamaica's achievements are not only in the sound economic policies, but due to their own creativity. @CentralBankJA used reggae to explain inflation targeting.”

Of note is the restraint shown by civil servants, nurses, teachers, and the security forces as Government appealed for patience in our effort to stay on plan.

Lagarde commended the work of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) formed in 2013 and co-chaired first by Richard Byles and the then Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter. Byles was succeeded by financier Keith Duncan in 2016, and Duncan continues as the sole chair of an expanded EPOC, which will continue its oversight of Jamaica's economic programme after the end of the SBA.

In welcoming members of civil society to EPOC at the signing of an memorandum of understanding with Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke last month, Duncan noted, “We also believe that it is extremely important that civil society has a voice in Jamaica's economic programme that we are plugged in; that we understand where we are in this programme, what our targets are, where are we going as a country, as we move towards economic independence.”

Of course, this is no time for Jamaica to relax. Our number one problem is crime. We can debate the use of states of emergency endlessly, but the fact is we have to do something radical to stem this horrible loss of lives until we can develop the social programmes to ensure that our youth at risk are educated and job-ready. What produces these cold-blooded gunmen, these out-of-control taxi drivers, and these foul-mouthed harassers and windshield wipers? There are myriad studies; hopefully we can arrive at answers and solutions soon.

Criminal activity and careless road users are stressing our health system. Surgeries have to be postponed and blood supply runs low because of the endless stream of casualties arriving at our various emergency rooms throughout the country. Families are plunged into poverty with the tragic loss of their breadwinners, which affects children's education and living conditions.

We recently met a once-right high school student whose marks suddenly fell, and whose enthusiasm for learning disappeared. We learned that she had lost her caring father to gunmen and was in a state of prolonged grief, despite the counselling being offered.

And so, we see that crime is holding us back on many fronts, though we must acknowledge the efforts being made. Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson and Jamaica Defence Force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Rocky Meade are outstanding leaders. The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica initiative Crime Stop, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this past weekend, has been able to give sizeable rewards, sponsored by corporate Jamaica. Neighbourhood watch groups have been able to keep crime down in communities.

We applaud the 'Liv Gud' campaign — though we are a bit puzzled at the spelling; not sure why we could not simply call it 'Live Good'. 'Jamaica Moves' works just fine. Now to engage Jamaicans at school, work, and in communities to act out this call by showing more respect, care and compassion.

The IMF's stamp of approval is tempered by sober advice: “Nonetheless, to fully achieve Jamaica's considerable potential will require renewed attention to supply-side reforms to address crime, support agricultural resilience, and invest in education and health care. The Government is also committed to expanding social assistance for those in need through better coverage of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) and support for the elderly.”

School of Hope gets music room

The Kiwanis Club of New Kingston is well known for their vigorous pursuit of improved health and educational facilities for their fellow Jamaicans, and their latest achievement is the completion of a music room at the Randolph Lopez School of Hope. The school, founded by Randolph Lopez in 1958 when he discovered that there was no institution that would take his daughter born with Down's Syndrome, has had an outstanding history as outlined by Marilyn McKoy, chair of the Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities.

The large music room now boasts percussion, wind, and stringed instruments provided through the club's fund-raising efforts. Sponsorships were garnered by the Kiwanians from the Buju Banton Foundation, Digicel Foundation, GraceKennedy Financial Group, National Baking Foundation, and National Commercial Bank.

The project was led by two dynamos, Kiwanis Club of New Kingston President Dianne Harris and executive member Hermine Metcalfe, while the event was chaired by one of Jamaica's greatest ladies, Eleanor Jones.

GG commends seniors' health plan

Last Monday, Matthew Pragnell and Mureen Thomas, group CEO and Jamaica managing director respectively of CGM Gallagher, Debbie Cargill, and yours truly of the seniors organisation Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), paid a courtesy call to CCRP patron Governor General Sir Patrick and Lady Allen to brief them on our new health plan. We were heartened by their kind commendation.

Thanks to insurance giants Sagicor and Guardian and brokerage house CGM Gallagher, CCRP has been able to promote a three-month introductory offer to our members with no age limit and requiring no evidence of insurability. The plan has so far attracted over 1,000 Jamaicans from all walks of life.

Farewell, Eva May Wright

Grandparents' Day, next Sunday, will be a very sad one for my friends Ann-Marie Vaz and Trisha Williams-Singh. They have lost a very special grandmother, Eva May Wright, a humble lady from St Elizabeth who, by dint of hard work, raised her grandchildren and inspired several generations. Thank goodness she lived to see her beloved Ann sworn in as Member of Parliament for Portland Eastern and Trisha rising through the ranks to a senior post at Digicel Jamaica and making waves as the passionate chair of the Early Childhood Commission. Her family gave her a splendid 99th birthday party earlier this year. A beautiful life, indeed! Rest in peace, beloved Eva May Wright.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com


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