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Gov't must take tough action, says former PM

Wednesday, March 27, 2013    

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FORMER Prime Minister Bruce Golding has warned that an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) without Government taking the necessary tough action will not put the country on stable footing.

"I am not in a position to prescribe the policies and actions Government needs to take [as] I have been away from the numbers and the modelling of alternative strategies for almost 18 months; what I am absolutely clear on is that the actions enunciated so far

will not put us on a path to economic growth," Golding told an awards ceremony of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) last Thursday.

"They may meet the conditions embodied in the IMF agreement but even if it won't be business as usual, it will be nearly business as it used to be before we got to the edge of the cliff; it is not business as it needs to sustain growth, stimulate investments and create jobs," the former prime minister told the gathering.

"It will be sustainability of sorts but one simple category two or three hurricane will put us right back at the edge of the cliff," Golding warned.

Golding, who said that he empathised with the Government in the current situation, said the Administration would have to take "tough decisions".

"The IMF targets are tied to the Gross Domestic Product, therefore we must either constrict ourselves to fit into those targets or grow the GDP so that it can absorb," Golding pointed out.

He, however, noted that while the IMF programme provides some accommoda-tion for enhancing the safety net to protect

the most vulnerable it leaves no space for measures to promote growth.

"It means, therefore, that the measures must go beyond the IMF agreement.

"It is an illusion of compassion for us to maintain hundreds of Government departments and agencies when there is no money to fund the work that those agencies and departments are to do, so for no fault of their own they are sitting down idle because we only can pay the salaries and utilities because we are not able to fund the programmes and the work they are supposed to do," he added.

According to Golding, the Administration has shied away from taking several crucial steps started under the now Opposition when it formed the Government which could have given it some necessary wiggle room.

"The comprehensive tax reform proposals taken to parliament in 2007 have been adulterated; what is being presented now is a mere shadow. Pension reform proposals put forward in 2011 have been put off for another three years. And the public sector rationalisation programme presented to Parliament in 2011, which would have merged Government agencies and reduce the size of the public sector, have been dealt a severe blow by the Government's undertaking that there will be no lay off," the former prime minister said

"The Government must be bold enough to take the tough decisions necessary, get on with it," he said, while urging Prime Minister Simpson Miller to take the reins as in the end the final decisions rested with her. "It is indeed crunch time," he said.

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