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Tufton: Jamaicans not so excited about the IMF

Monday, June 30, 2014    

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FORMER Cabinet minister Dr Chris Tufton wants the Government to spend more time addressing the issue of the economic circumstances of Jamaicans and benefits to them from the sacrifices that they are being asked to make, arising from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement.

The politician and academic said that while the Government may be encouraged by the visit of the IMF's Managing Director Christine Lagarde last week, the matter needs to be dealt with.

He said that while the sacrifices being imposed on the Jamaican people are real, too often government seems less committed to its own routine obligations to the Jamaican stakeholders, like timely payment to suppliers of goods and services to government agencies.

"We have heard the virtues of sticking to meeting the targets set under the IMF agreement and have even heard empathy being expressed with Jamaicans who have had to make sacrifices brought on by devaluation and wage freeze," Dr Tufton said as he addressed the installation and awards ceremony of the Rotarack Club of Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland, yesterday.

"We have not heard enough said about unpaid bills to suppliers within the public service, such as in the hospitals or the schools or the prison systems," the former Jamaica Labour Party deputy leader continued.

"These unpaid bills disrupt the rhythm of economic activity and causes undue hardships to farmers and commercial workers. We have not seen a sufficient and timely response to manufacturers or developers who are willing to invest, but are faced with uncertainties about tax issues or developmental approvals. These uncertainties delay the process and disrupt the prospects of job creation," Dr Tufton said.

According to Dr Tufton, these uncertainties were never bargained for in any IMF agreement, and represent a failure on the part of the Government to live true to its obligation under the programme.

The IMF agreement, Tufton argued, presupposes that the benefits of the sacrifices made from areas like wage freeze and devaluation must include a more efficient and competitive public service, conducive to economic growth and development. These benefits, he said, must flow in parallel to the sacrifices being requested of the Jamaican people and right now they are not.

These shortcomings, the former Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South West said, were causing hardships and disappointment among Jamaicans and could disrupt the implementation of the IMF agreement.

"So, while there is something to be said for a positive outlook by the IMF on the prospects of the Jamaican economy, the fact is that Jamaicans, both in their personal lives as well as in their businesses, are not nearly as upbeat as the IMF and the government seem to be," Tufton said. This is a point which seemed to have been omitted from the speeches linked to the visit of the IMF head, he went on.

According to Dr Tufton, the concerns of critical Jamaican stakeholders cannot be secondary to passing these IMF tests, as without stakeholder support and buy-in there is a risk of not achieving the ultimate results of economic growth and development the multilateral and government are seeking.

Tufton called on the Government to establish as a Cabinet priority an agenda item that focuses on the obstacles that threaten to affect its own routine commitment to its agreement with the people of Jamaica as well as those under the IMF agreement, arguing that the people have no choice in the sacrifices it's being called to make, but the government is allowing too many slippages

in its own commitment to the people.

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