Jamaica can earn more from brand, says IMF official


Jamaica can earn more from brand, says IMF official

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative Dr Lonkeng Ngouana says Jamaica should be reaping more economic benefits from the strength of the country's brand, which he has described as being “under leveraged”.“The strength of the Jamaican brand around the world should be generating even more visitors, although (the number) is already high,” Dr Lonkeng Ngouana stated. He was delivering the Distinguished Lecture by the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) in Kingston on Thursday.

Pointing to the outstanding performances by Jamaican athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which was seen globally by millions of television viewers, the IMF official argued that the country had a great opportunity to market its products to other countries.

“To leverage that brand, your goods have to be found in shops (in countries where people easily recognise) the Jamaican flag,” Dr Lonkeng Ngouana told the gathering of UCC students, staff and guests.

The IMF resident representative suggested that security concerns were among the factors hindering the greater leveraging of Jamaica's brand and which partially caused many tourists not to venture beyond all-inclusive resorts to sample the country's cultural offerings. However, he noted that Government was addressing the problem by a renewed focus on citizen security — one of four pillars to achieve economic growth and jobs. The other pillars are public sector transformation, social inclusion, and modernisation of the central bank to better manage inflation.

Dr Lonkeng Ngouana, who was speaking on the topic 'Jamaica and the IMF', said that having successfully completed the three-year Extended Fund Facility agreement with the fund, the country is now building on the macroeconomic stability that has been achieved. This includes an unprecedented reduction in public debt, a sizeable reduction in inflation, and more than doubling the Net International Reserves to US$2.5 billion. Jamaica, the IMF official stated, is now in the position to leverage the gains of the debt reduction by borrowing at relatively low interest rates in international markets.

He identified some remaining challenges, including high unemployment — especially among youth, the tilting of Government spending towards wage-related expenses, and interest payment on debt.

Responding to a question from the audience, the IMF official said Government's decision to focus taxation on consumption rather than income would incentivise people to move out of the informal economy. He noted that the measurement of consumption, for example, through the Survey of Living Conditions by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, gives a clearer picture of the impact of economic activities.

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