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Opposition names Economic Advisory Council

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 24, 2014    

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LEADER of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness said yesterday that the Jamaican economy has been on a path of fiscal adjustment for two-and-a-half years without success, hence his decision to create an Economic Advisory Council to enable entrepreneurship and drive prosperity and growth.

Holness told a press conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in St Andrew that, unlike the current Government, the Opposition believes that economic policy must be about growth and prosperity.

"Growth in production, growth in jobs, growth in your income, growth in your food basket, growth in your personal development, and prosperity in your life. We must grow the economy and make our people prosperous," the opposition leader said.

Holness took the opportunity to present the first four members of the council who have volunteered their services to assist the party develop a "knowledge, education and growth portfolio", which he has been pushing since his contribution to the Budget Debate in the House of Representatives in April. He said that additional members would be named over time.

He named investment banker Aubyn Hill as the chairman of the panel of advisers who will be working with him to devise the knowledge and growth policies, and clear implementation strategies to help him prepare to lead the country.

The other three persons named to the council were Fayval Williams, a chartered financial analyst and consultant, who was named the JLP's deputy spokesperson on finance and planning in April; Patrick Casserly, an investor and former president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Colin Williams, a researcher and survey specialist who has 25 years' experience in the areas of living standards measurement and poverty.

JLP spokesman on finance and planning Audley Shaw welcomed the team after the members were named by Holness and said he looked forward to working with them as a team.

Shaw also announced that one of their first steps would be to compose a letter to managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde, who is expected to visit Jamaica on Friday, June 27, bringing to her attention the negative impact of the IMF-influenced devaluation of the Jamaican dollar.

"Devaluation as a strategy is not working to improve our exports," Shaw told yesterday's press conference.

Holness said that while the country has been on a path of fiscal adjustment for two-and-a half years, with no real signs that things will get better, it has fallen into a mood of depression and a wait-and-see mode. He added that what was worse was that there are persons who would want the country to believe that there are no other options, and that the current policy of the Government is the only one to pursue.

"There is no doubt that fiscal consolidation is needed in the management of the economy. However, we must ask ourselves what is the objective of economic policy. Is the objective of economic policy to brag about how many IMF tests we have passed, or is it to show how much growth we have achieved?" the opposition leader questioned.

Hill said that he was pleased to accept the invitation to chair the council on which he would be supported by an accomplished, experience and well-trained group of colleagues.

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