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Jamaica has come further, faster than anyone thought possible

Sunday, August 11, 2019

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On this occasion of Jamaica's 57th anniversary of Independence, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is proud to salute the people and Government of Jamaica for your many achievements. As your premier multilateral partner for the past half-century, we are proud to have been a part of your inspiring journey.

In this context, Jamaica's progress towards institutional development in recent years has been nothing short of remarkable. Over the past decade Jamaica went from being one of the most indebted and economically uncertain countries in the world, to the poster child for policy prudence and institutional innovation. With the help of international development partners like the IDB, Jamaica has come further, faster, than anyone thought possible.

But the heavy lifting is far from over. Completing the monumental task of transforming Jamaica's public sector into a more modern, efficient, and responsive group of agencies will require many more years of effort and external support. The IDB looks forward to remaining the country's closest partner in the years to come, and our country strategy is fully aligned with the Government's own development agenda. It aims to tackle constraints on economic growth and contribute to poverty reduction, with a focus on three overarching objectives:

(i) improving public sector management;

(ii) increasing productivity and growth; and,

(iii) reinforcing human capital development.

This strategy also fully integrates crime, resilience to climate shocks, and gender equality as cross-cutting areas.

In this context, the IDB is currently providing support to the people of Jamaica in a multitude of areas, as reflected by a portfolio of over US$730 million in financial support (end-2018), including for infrastructure and basic services, health care, citizen security and justice, social protection, financial sector development and inclusion, skills development, and — importantly — public sector transformation. We view public sector modernisation and reform as one of the key pillars of our work with Jamaica, and as an area where much remains to be done.

Our ongoing partnership with the Government of Jamaica has focused on nearly every aspect of public sector transformation. One example is the Public Sector Efficiency Programme (PSEP) that began in 2013 and has been co-funded by the IDB, the European Union, and the Government of China. This programme has achieved significant results, including digitalisation of Jamaica's business registration process, which has helped Jamaica move up considerably on the World Bank's Doing Business rankings — so much so that Jamaica was named one of the “10 Most Improved Economies” on this ranking in 2016.

Other significant achievements under the PSEP include revamping Jamaica's public procurement system, and laying the foundations for adopting a shared services model for key government functions. These and other initiatives will save the public millions of dollars each year, and ensure more efficient and effective service delivery. The PSEP's successor — the Public Sector Transformation Programme — will build on this success.

Additionally, our work on public sector reform has also supported the Government's efforts to transform Jamaica into a digital society. This included creating the core infrastructure required for digital governance — for example, a modern connectivity framework (GOVNET) — as well as cutting edge data infrastructure, and a strong foundational identification system — all of which can serve as the basis for more efficient service delivery.

One of the PSEP's most significant achievements has been its crucial support for the development of Jamaica's forthcoming independent fiscal council, as part of an effort led by the Ministry of Finance. The IDB has made some of the world's foremost experts in the design of fiscal institutions — among them Canada's InfoCivitas Ltd, along with our own internal expertise — available to the Government in support of its efforts to ensure that Jamaica's fiscal architecture will be modern, effective, and up to the task of ensuring that the hard-won fiscal and economic gains of the past several years are sustained.

This advice and support — along with input from other development partners, industry stakeholders, academics, and civil society — will ensure that public and market confidence in Jamaica's core institutions will remain strong, particularly after Jamaica's successful graduation from the ongoing International Monetary Fund-supported adjustment programme later this year. We look forward to remaining the Government's foremost partner in this endeavour, and to ensuring its successful implementation over the coming years.

Let us take this opportunity to commend the Government, and most importantly the people of Jamaica, for their perseverance through an extended and difficult period of austerity and reform. Few, if any, countries at any level of income and development have accomplished as much, as quickly as you have.

In keeping with our mandate to improve lives, the IDB is proud of our contribution to this success. We look forward to continued partnership and support for stronger institutions, safer communities, and a healthier and more prosperous future for all Jamaicans.

— Therese Turner-Jones is the IDB's general manager, Country Department, Caribbean Group


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