Government’s programmed mainstreaming of resilience in its activities is expected to aid significantly in safeguarding Jamaica against future shocks according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
The prime minister said resilience has been, and is being incorporated in the development and upgrade of the country’s roads and supporting infrastructure to withstand the impact of climate change, financing and budgetary arrangements.
“We routinely set aside provisions for responses to shocks,” he added.
Speaking at the recent Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Investment and Capital Markets Conference, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, Holness said that while the country has been recording positive economic turnarounds recently, the administration is aware that global headwinds experienced over the last two years have not abated.
“So, we’re going to have shocks, whether it’s a hurricane, a health crisis, an energy crisis, a geopolitical crisis or a systemic financial crisis. What are we going to do when we face a shock, when we face a crisis? We will have our buffers in place [and] we will be prepared,” he explained.
The prime minister said that based on certain key out-turns recorded, “I believe we have achieved that [targeted] economic turnaround”.
He noted that Jamaica successfully cut its public debt by approximately 50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in six years without debt relief.
He pointed out that “in early 2020, our public debt was below 100 per cent of GDP”.
Additionally, he said the unemployment rate fell to 7.3 per cent, the Net International Reserves (NIR) totalled US$3.1 billion and “all the major international rating agencies – Moody’s, S&P, [and] Fitch – had upgraded Jamaica’s sovereign debt ratings to their highest levels in decades”.
“We had recorded 20 successive quarters, that is, five years of economic growth… the longest period of sustained growth in our history. The Jamaican stock market climbed by over 400 per cent in five years. In 2015 and again in 2018, it was the best performing stock market in the world, and in 2019, it was the fourth best performing stock market,” the prime minister noted.
Holness said that while “we undoubtedly took a massive hit” with the onset of COVID-19, the administration “kept our focus on ensuring that when the pandemic ended, Jamaica would be well-positioned to rebound strongly.” This, he added, was a deliberate strategy of the government.
He said the administration undertook the largest social expenditure in response to any crisis in the history of Jamaica, noting that “not one question [was asked] about the probity, the integrity and the effectiveness of the spend”.