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Finance minister optimistic of growth for fiscal year

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, is optimistic that the economy will record positive growth for 2017/18, despite a contraction in the first financial quarter.

“We are still holding to an economic growth for the fiscal year of about 1.7 to two per cent, which will still be above the 1.3 per cent that we had last year,” he said.

Shaw was speaking to journalists following the opening ceremony of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) business and wellness expo at the Garmex Free Zone and Industrial Estate, Marcus Garvey Drive today.

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reported that the economy recorded negative growth of 0.1 per cent in the April to June quarter.

Shaw explained that the negative growth was due to a combination of drought at the start of the calendar year and flood rains at the beginning of the fiscal year.

“When we did a further analysis of the areas of growth and lack of growth, there were only two sectors that did not grow in the June quarter. Those were agriculture and mining. Both of them should show improvement in the third quarter, because we had favourable weather conditions,” he pointed out.

“You can't judge anything by one quarter. You have to judge it by the overall picture of what is happening in the economy (and the overall picture) continues to be positive,” he added.

Meanwhile, the finance minister noted that the new owner of the Alpart alumina plant in Nain, St Elizabeth, Jiuquan Iron & Steel Company Limited (JISCO) intends to invest some US$2 billion in the sector over time, including a new alumina plant.

He noted that this was a positive for the economy, as, already, the company has invested in excess of US$360 million on its Jamaican operations.

“We have other projects in the pipeline, like a major project we have slated for Vernamfield. When all of these are put together, including the addition of 14,000 hotel rooms over the next four years — 3,000 of that are in place already — you are looking at between US$16 billion to US$20 billion worth of investment,” said.

Meanwhile, the finance minister said the Government will be looking at changing the method of measuring economic growth in Jamaica.

“The way that STATIN is measuring it now, they are using a base year of 1998. The developed world is using a base year of 2008; that is a 10-year difference. What are some of the major sectors you ensure that you implant into the measurement process... that has to be reviewed as well,” Shaw said.

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