Clarke opens debate on new fiscal oversight body

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Clarke opens debate on new fiscal oversight body

Friday, January 15, 2021

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MINISTER of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke took the nation a step closer to deepening fiscal transparency within the public sector, when he opened the debate on a Bill creating an Independent Fiscal Commission (IFC) on Tuesday.

Dr Clarke told the House of Representatives that the policy focus of his ministry is organised around the principles of economic independence, economic opportunity for all, and protection of the vulnerable.

“As I have shared with the Jamaican public on various occasions, economic independence entails a domestication of the policymaking and consensus-building processes, and requires us to pursue policies that result in Jamaica having greater flexibility and an increased ability to address priority areas, as determined by Jamaicans, and doing so responsibly and without compromising that very independence,” he said.

He said that the Act will establish an independent fiscal commission to strengthen Jamaica's fiscal responsibility framework, promote sound fiscal policy and fiscal management in an effort to sustain fiscal discipline and macro-economic stability.

It is one of three Bills that the minister tabled in the House of Representatives in December. Others were an Act to Amend the National Housing Trust (NHT) Act and the Financial Administration and Audit (Amendment) Act, which together, he said, are to construct what he described as “a fiscal path that is both consistent with economy recovery and debt sustainability”, given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bill amending the NHT Act extended the contribution of the trust to the Consolidated Fund over the next five fiscal years, while the automatic correction mechanism of the FAA Act was amended to become consistent with achieving the country's debt sustainability objectives, “while allowing for a fiscal path that is more accommodative of economic recovery”.

The commission will replace the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), currently chaired by businessman Keith Duncan. EPOC was created in 2013 to monitor the implementation of the economic reform measures under the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Dr Clarke said that the policymaking and consensus-building processes that contributed to Jamaica's fiscal rehabilitation, across successive administrations, was built on principles that must continue to be at the centre of the pursuit of economic independence, and which the commission must ensure.

He listed those principles as: enhancing accountability of the policymaking process; continuous deepening transparency of government finances; strengthening credibility of government's fiscal path; promoting inclusiveness in the policy discussion space; and taking greater societal ownership of Jamaica's economic direction

Clarke said that the goal is to create a domestic institution fit for Jamaica's purpose, combining the capacity for independent fiscal review and analysis that was provided by the IMF, along with the domestic monitoring, ownership and reporting embodied by EPOC which contributed to Jamaica's internationally recognised fiscal transformation.

He said that the IFC has evolved out of Jamaica's own experiences, from which the country has collectively learned several lessons and, across political administrations, has been able to transform its economic prospects.

Debate on the Bill will continue next week when the House of Representatives resumes at Gordon House.

— Balford Henry


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