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Clarke: Jamaica has options should things worsen

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Finance Minister Nigel Clarke is assuring Jamaicans that should “things take a turn for the worse” economically, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is prepared to take advantage of recourse under the country's fiscal responsibility framework.

“We are taking measures today based on what is known. But things could take a turn for the worse [however], the updates to the fiscal responsibility law [has] incorporated foresight to bring well-designed flexibility in policymaking should the need arise, due to dire and emergency circumstances that create a sharp economic recession,” Dr Clarke told parliamentarians yesterday while closing the 2020/21 Budget Debate.

“The fiscal responsibility law provides avenues for its suspension to deal with dire emergencies and/or severe economic contraction. I want to assure the people of Jamaica that should things take a turn for the worse, beyond what we currently envisage and beyond all the economic measures we have put in place, we are prepared to invoke the clauses in the law that allow for its suspension, and that require independent verification by the auditor general, and act accordingly within the law,” the finance minister said.

Added Clarke: “This is not something that we would do lightly as the circumstances would have to warrant such a move.”

Noting that any such decision would also not be taken without consultation with the parliamentary Opposition, Dr Clarke said “beyond that, the auditor general would be required by law to validate that the conditions as prescribed in the fiscal responsibility framework exist”.

“It is important to put this on the table, Mr Speaker. Hopefully, we will not need it but, if we do, I want the country to be assured that Jamaica has options that many of our neighbours do not,” the finance minister stated.

“... We are going through a very difficult phase in the middle of this pandemic. These are tough times; as resilient Jamaicans, we have to stay together and get through this together. And we will. But we cannot let this crisis define our future. While the waters are choppy for Jamaica and every country in the world, the ship of state is otherwise heading in the right direction. This is a test of our economic resilience and we will eventually come out ahead.”