THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) reacted dispassionately yesterday to a statement by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips on the status of negotiations with Jamaica, steering clear of the minister's political comments.
"The Jamaican authorities and the International Monetary Fund have been engaged intensely over the past few months, working on the technical elements of a possible Fund-supported programme," the Washington-based lender of last resort said in a statement.
The statement quoted the head of the IMF negotiating team, Jan Kees Martijn, as saying: "The IMF stands ready to support the Jamaican authorities as they move forward with establishing an economic programme that will effectively create the conditions for sustained higher growth, achieve fiscal and debt sustainability, improve competitiveness, preserve financial sector stability, and foster social cohesion, including through an effective social safety net.
"The IMF remains fully committed to helping Jamaica achieve these fundamental objectives and prepare the path for a more prosperous future, and discussions in this direction are continuing," said Kees Martijn.
In his own statement Saturday, Phillips had heaped some of the blame for the delay in inking a new IMF pact on the collapse of previous talks with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government.
That experience, according to Phillips, had resulted in the IMF insisting that, as much as possible, measures that were necessary for the conclusion of the deal must be implemented upfront.
Phillips, who was apparently embarrassed at not being able to meet his December deadline for securing the IMF's vaunted seal of approval, which would trigger funds from other multilateral organisations, also added that the discussions required technical studies of the repercussions of policy changes and caused vigorous debate to overcome differences on the appropriate measures, their impact, exceptions, timing, and significance.
"The process of arriving at agreement has also had to contend with fairly recent memories among Jamaica's multilateral partners of dishonoured commitments and disappointing performance," Phillips said. "Thus, even where we agree in principle about what has to be achieved by the end of the first year of a programme, there is an instinctive insistence on the part of the IMF that as much as possible should be done upfront," he added.