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Gov't promises IMF update after retreat

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor - special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 11, 2013    

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THE Government has promised that the country will get an update on the progress of the much-anticipated International Monetary Funds (IMF) Agreement when Cabinet ends its three-day retreat tomorrow.

The administration has come under fire from various groups after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in an address to the nation on Sunday, failed to update the country on the progress of the negotiations.

Yesterday, Cabinet minister and general secretary of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) Peter Bunting, in defence of the prime minister, said it would have been premature for her to make any announcement on the IMF negotiations ahead of the Cabinet retreat where fundamental decisions will be taken.

"I expect that towards the end of the Cabinet retreat the nation will get an update either by way of a statement, press release or a press conference," Bunting told journalists at a press conference at the party's headquarters in Kingston yesterday, where the PNP presented its report card on the administration's first 12 months in office.

With January 6, being the official anniversary of the swearing-in of the PNP-led administration, Bunting said it was important for Simpson Miller to address the nation on "a more broad-vision level instead of getting into the nitty-gritty details of the report on the negotiations towards an IMF Agreement".

At the same time, fellow Government minister Robert Pickersgill said the party has listened to, read and watched the feedback of key sector leaders, commentators and the wider public at large, following the prime minister's address.

"Let me directly acknowledge that we understand the anxieties and concerns of the various groups and the wider public especially as it relates to the ongoing negotiations with the IMF," he said.

Meanwhile, he said discussions at the Cabinet retreat will involve a review of the state of the IMF negotiations and the pre- and post-action requirements related to an agreement with the fund.

The country, he added, will continue to receive the updates and sector leaders and the media will be apprised of developments as quickly and as frequently as is practical to do so.

"It is in this context that our team of negotiators continue to work steadfastly for the best possible deal with IMF, and I boldly express to you on their behalf that they are relentless in their efforts as guided by the prime minister, through the minister of finance, to be thorough and relentless in their efforts," Pickersgill said.

The party chairman noted, however, that regardless of such negotiations Jamaica must own and direct its economic growth and development.

Government's decision, he said, would be taken with the interest of the people at heart and in a manner that the majority of Jamaicans and the country's economy will benefit positively and measurably.

According to Pickersgill, while the timing and pace of the negotiations dominate the public discourse, the Government has been exercising responsible leadership and putting in place the necessary measures for the country to regain a sound footing economically.

"We understand that the imprimatur of the IMF is a key corollary in enhancing and achieving that objective, regardless we must take definitive steps as a country for Jamaica's benefit," Pickersgill said.

Government, he added, was cognisant that a number of people were hurting economically, and as such the Cabinet and the prime minister were committed to making and implementing the right decisions for the benefit of all Jamaicans.

"The Government will be in communication after the Cabinet retreat is complete to share with the country the further high-level plans for the future as we seek to make and implement the right decisions for the majority of Jamaica," Pickersgill said.

Pickersgill said each ministry has been mandated to bring two priority areas to the retreat as the Cabinet begins preparation to craft what he said, will be a very tight 2013/2014 national budget.

"Once again that hobbled the prime minister somewhat because the budget is to come, and we await the outcome of the negotiations because it will affect it seriously one way or the other," he said.

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