EPOC hails economy

Calls for implementation of NIDS

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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JAMAICA's fiscal position continues to be in a good place, with the country exceeding targets and operating at a fiscal surplus for 2018/19 according to latest data from the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC).

Co-chair of EPOC, Keith Duncan noted that the country's positive position is supported by the BOJ's accommodative stance which has resulted in the reduction of interest rates to all-time lows. Over the past three months, the BOJ has lowered the cash reserve ratio twice.

“The implementation of these policy measures continues to contribute to the reduction in Jamaica's debt levels. Interest costs to the GoJ also continue to fall. The growth in credit to the productive sector is increasing year over year-eclipsing the growth in consumer credit,” Duncan told journalists yesterday in reporting on the review period April to March 2019.

Tax revenues were up $46 billion — 9.3 per cent over the prior year — to hit a total of $629 billion. Expenditures fell below budget by $13.3 billion for the fiscal year. Of this amount, recurrent expenditure was $10.7 billion below budget (-2.0 per cent), while capital expenditure was $2.6 billion below budget (-3.8 per cent).

At the same time, capital expenditure grew 41.4 per cent year over year, totalling $66.2 billion over $46.8 billion for the comparable period of 2017. Interest expenditure fell $6 billion below the $135 billion for the comparative period 2017/18, and $7 billion below the budgeted figure of $136.2 billion for the 12 months of the fiscal year 2018/19 (April-March), driven by lower interest rates on the GOJ debt.

The GOJ fiscal surpluses, with tax revenues and grants, exceeded expenditure by $24.4 billion for the April 2018 – March 2019 period against the projected budget target of $9.6 billion. As a result of the revenue and grants performance and the under-expenditure for the fiscal year, Jamaica's primary balance of $153.6-billion exceeded the $145.8 billion budget target for April 2018-March 2019.

As at May 10, 2019, Jamaica's net international reserves stood at US$ 3.021 billion, while the projected stock of non-borrowed reserves at end-June 2019 totalled US$2,477 million, US$220 million above the indicative targeted floor.

EPOC CALLS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF NIDS

While Duncan maintained that Jamaica's economic programme remains firmly on track, he called for implementation of the National Identification System (NIDS).

“The implementation of the National Identification System has been a key deliverable under the Economic Reform Programme since 2009. The GoJ has fallen behind on implementation timelines over this extended period,” he said.

Duncan added that under the current IMF/PSBA Programme, timelines have slipped and the implementation is now faced with legal challenges.

“There is broad consensus around the benefits of NIDS, as it would greatly enhance the seamless delivery of services to all Jamaicans by the public and private sector. NIDS will ease and reduce the cost of doing business in Jamaica for all stakeholders.

“EPOC strongly urges the GoJ, the Opposition, and other stakeholder groups to urgently get this game-changing initiative back on track and not allow any further slippage,” Duncan said.


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