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Opposition concerned about economy dipping into negative growth

Thursday, October 05, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has raised concern over the negative growth recorded in Jamaica's economy for the second quarter of 2017.

The party, in a release this evening, said its concern is that, “after having set the platform for growth by successfully implementing important reforms of the Jamaican economy, resulting in nine consecutive quarters of positive growth from January 2015, the positive trend has been broken”.

Opposition spokesperson for finance and planning, Senator Mark Golding was quoted in the release as saying: “Despite setting up the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, headed by the prime minister, and despite last year's fanfare about achieving five per cent GDP growth in four years, the JLP Government has now presided over the economy's first slide into negative growth territory since the successful turnaround in 2014. This is very disappointing for all Jamaicans.

“We note that the Minister of Finance's interim Fiscal Policy Paper dated September 26, 2017, tabled in Parliament last week, erroneously stated that there was growth of 0.3 per cent in the second quarter, only to be contradicted a few days later by the Statistical Institute's confirmation that there was in fact negative growth of 0.1 per cent for that quarter. This is a substantial negative variation of 0.4 per cent of GDP. No explanation has been provided for this embarrassing and material discrepancy.”

The Opposition said it is also alarmed that the Government has now made a significant downward adjustment to its medium-term growth forecast, placing further doubt on the credibility of the much-hyped 'five-in-four' growth target.

Whereas the September 2016 Fiscal Policy Paper projected growth of 2.2 per cent, 3.3 per cent and 3.2 per cent for the fiscal years 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/2020, the September 2017 Fiscal Policy Paper has slashed those projections to 1.7 per cent, 2.7 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively, the release said.

Golding stated that “This substantial reduction in the Government's official growth forecast, in stark contrast to the 'five-in-four', demands an explanation from the prime minister. Is 'five-in-four' now just a public relations fantasy being sold to the Jamaican people? If not, why is the Government now officially projecting growth of just 2.3 per cent in 2019/20, the year when the EGC has said we should be achieving 5 per cent?”

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