IMF and its changing partnership with Jamaica

Business reporter

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) readies to pack up and leave Jamaica in its current official capacity, there is sustained hope that the country will continue on its committed path of fiscal regulation and austerity for increased growth and development.

Constant Lonkeng Ngouana, IMF resident representative in Jamaica speaking at the Rotary Club of St Andrew's weekly luncheon meeting yesterday, purports that a unique partnership was formed while the IMF and Jamaica worked together.

“It was working with the Jamaican people and seeing the commitment, that has pushed the IMF to work closely with the country as well as fuel more resources into the programme he said.

He adds that even though he is due to leave the country as resident representative very soon, the organisation will still be maintaining its presence within the island, even though not at the usual rate. This is to ensure that the regular health checks will still be done and technical assistance and training provided where necessary.

He commends the programme's success, thus far, on the commitment of the Jamaican people for staying the course and enduring the tough economic regimes over the last six years.

Lonkeng also praised the country for being “the first in the world to have a home-grown oversight body” in referring to the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC).

The creation of such a body he regards as genius, a committee charged to monitor the implementation of Jamaica's economic reform measures under its agreement with the IMF.

He jokingly added that the country should copyright such a move based on the findings that other countries around the world now want to follow suit.

Other successes, he noted are those of policy continuity whereby the programme was resilient to political change likewise the strong policy frameworks that were put in place.

With the country now enjoying macroeconomic stability and all the key indicators pointing in the right direction; such as decline in unemployment levels, controlled inflation, consistent growth in the economy for the past four to six quarters; he believes that Jamaica is in a good place to meet all or most of its prescribed objectives needed for growth.

For these reasons, he sees the prospects of attaining a five per cent growth rate in four years as more “aspirational”.

“The level of growth to be achieved will depend on the strength of the programme that was put in place and its achievability will depend on the strength of unlocking all potentials for growth,” he said.

Lonkeng lauded the recent efforts of the banks and private sector in their recent quest to work together in building the micro component by making things such as access to funding more available.

He noted also that this new focus on access to finance is very important as the lack of access, crime (which currently inhibits 0.5 per cent of growth) and the lack of having a resilient agricultural sector, are some of the greatest challenges acting as an impediment to meaningful growth.

He points out that prospectively, the IMF in its exit strategy is seeking to remedy this by working with the Government to develop a policy framework for natural disasters, to secure financial protection against these unwarranted risks among other measures.

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