KINGSTON, Jamaica - Opposition spokesman on Finance, Planning, Growth and Economic Development, Audley Shaw, says that, contrary to claims by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, in Parliament this week, the economy is not on a stable path.
Shaw said that following a period of unquestionable stability in the economy, where the critical macroeconomic indicators were all in a positive direction, the country is now faced with “a precipitous fall in the Net International Reserves (NIR), an unstable exchange rate, an uptick in inflation, a likely increase in interest rates, declining values on the Stock Market, declining GDP and plunging business and consumer confidence”.
“The Minister's claim that the depleted NIR is seasonal is misleading, as the JLP Government maintained it at healthy levels of US$1.9 billion to US$2 billion during the worst global economic crisis since the great depression of the 1930s,” Shaw added.
He said that, coupled with the negative trends, was the emerging uncertainty surrounding the Government's ability to deal expeditiously with critical benchmarks of Tax and Pension Reform, as well as Public Sector Wage settlements which can yield a credible Medium Term Economic Programme and secure an Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)”.
The JLP spokesman also criticised Phillips, for failing to table White Papers on Tax and Pension Reform and noted that, despite the minister’s “bold statement in Parliament” that Public Sector workers must choose between wage restraint or job cuts, the equally bold response reported in the media, of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) is to promise a 25- point wage and benefits claim for the present Fiscal Year, 2012/2013".
"This is the environment of uncertainty, inaction and ferment in which the IMF will next week arrive for discussions,” Shaw stated.
He said that the Minister has to restore confidence, by dealing decisively with the outstanding issues standing in the way of support from multilateral partners, “and stop fiddling while our fragile economy experiences further deterioration”.