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Effective communication necessary

Friday, September 07, 2018

A week ago we pointed to the improvements in the economy and appealed to the Government, the Opposition, churches, civil society groups, and the country at large to ensure that we don't lose this momentum.

We also reiterated the importance of the authorities giving urgent attention to a number of issues that the Economic Growth Council identified as vital to the country being able to “exploit” growing investor confidence.

That appeal is worth repeating until we are convinced that all is being done to implement the necessary growth-inducing policies and measures, because we don't wish to see this country return to the days when reckless economic policies led to “run wid it” politics that is not moored in patriotism, but rather a need to secure State power for partisan gain.

There is no doubt that the Jamaican public have paid dearly for the economic gains made over the past few years; and we have a right to expect that the new set of policy decisions will be effectively communicated.

This new dispensation is designed to prevent the fiscal deficits that robbed at least three generations of a chance for economic independence. They are meant to stop inflation, fuelled by poor policy decisions, from ravaging the poor who do not have the tools to ride the wave of inflation.

While we empathise with calls for higher salaries and more spending on social services, we must acknowledge that the tight fiscal space within which the country is now operating does not allow for those calls to be met in their totality.

These new rules are, at this time, the best way out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. That is why it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure that more and more Jamaicans understand clearly the need for the policies.

Orderly markets require timely and credible information. For that reason, we commend the finance minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, for publishing the central bank's confidential correspondence to him to prove that they were not trying to stoke inflation by making the dollar slide.

The argument could be made that the minister was forced into releasing the document by a pervasive loss of credibility with the public. However, what is important is that his action not only signalled his commitment to openness, it has laid the foundation for rational discussion on monetary policy as well as the role of the Bank of Jamaica in the foreign exchange market.

As Minister Clarke correctly stated when he released the correspondence, “This unprecedented step is being taken in the interest of transparency and in order to add to public understanding... this information on the central bank's thinking on inflation is important for market efficiency.”

He also pointed out that by releasing the correspondence the Government was bringing forward some of the gains to be made under its planned Bank of Jamaica modernisation reforms, instead of awaiting the passing of the legislation to adopt a higher standard of transparency.

Good going so far, Dr Clarke.