Issues affecting regional countries to be discussed at IMF high level conference
Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 2017 International Monetary Fund (IMF) High Level Forum in Kingston, Ambassador Dr Nigel Clarke (right), and the IMF's Resident Representative for Jamaica, Dr Constant Lonkeng Ngouana, peruse the conference agenda prior to being interviewed at the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) head office in Kingston on November 9.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Critical issues relevant to and common among regional countries will be discussed by key policymakers and experts attending the sixth International Monetary Fund (IMF) High Level Conference on Thursday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

The one-day meeting, which is held annually, is being jointly hosted by the Government of Jamaica under the theme 'Unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in the Caribbean', and coincides with IMF Managing Director, Christine LaGarde's visit to the island.

Key topics for discussion include 'The Caribbean Growth Challenge: Crime and Youth Unemployment'; 'Fiscal Policy and Political Cycles'; 'Financial Sector: Stability and Growth Trade-offs'; and 'Challenges and Opportunities in the Caribbean'.

These will be explored by participants in four panel discussions, during which they will make presentations and share perspectives. They include current and former heads of Government, finance ministers, central bank governors, private-sector representatives, and senior IMF staff. Host Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who, along with Managing Director of the IMF, Christine LaGarde, will deliver opening remarks during the morning session and participate in the panel discussion on 'Challenges and Opportunities in the Caribbean', which culminates the day's proceedings.

This discussion, to be moderated by LaGarde, will also involve Grenada's Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, among other speakers, and aims to explore the conference's overall findings and discussions, including how key takeaways can be implemented by regional policymakers.

The opening session on 'The Caribbean Growth Challenge: Crime and Youth Unemployment' will involve Alcan Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development in the Institute for Sustainable Development, University of the West Indies, Anthony Clayton; President, Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, Richard Aborn; Citizen Security Principal Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank, Nathalie Alvarado; and Deputy Director, Counter-Human Trafficking Unit, Trinidad and Tobago, Alana Wheeler.

The panellists will explore links/disparities between growth and crime; cases where structural reforms and strong macroeconomic policies have borne fruit; and multipronged policies to break the cycle between lack of opportunities, crime and low growth.

This session will be moderated by Financial Times Executive, Robin Wigglesworth.

Former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, heads the panellists for the second discussion on 'Fiscal Policy and Political Cycles', which will be moderated by Gleaner Group Chairman, Oliver Clarke.

The other panellists include former Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur; Chairman of Chile's Fiscal Advisory Council, Andrea Repetto; and Sagicor Jamaica Group Chairman, Richard Byles. They will explore: a) case studies where the implementation of fiscal rules and frameworks support fiscal discipline, confidence and growth in the face of political/election pressures; b) how to secure broad political consensus around important reforms, and c) policies and coordination measures to put in place transparent and broad-based fiscal reforms, which ensure equal rules across the region.

This will be followed by a keynote luncheon presentation by Jamaican-born Dean of the Stern Business School at New York University, Professor Peter Henry.

The third discussion, focusing on 'Financial Sector: Stability and Growth Trade-offs', to be moderated by the CNN's Paula Newton, will see panellists examining policies to address constraints on financial inclusion; deepening trade-offs between growth and stability; and strategies for strengthening regulatory, supervisory and legal systems to best support financial deepening and inclusion.

The panellists will include Director of the World Bank's Development Research Group, Asli Demirgüę-Kunt; and Governors of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Timothy Antoine, and Central Bank of The Bahamas, John Rolle.

Chairman of the forum's Organising Committee, Ambassador Dr Nigel Clarke, and IMF Resident Representative for Jamaica, Dr Constant Lonkeng Ngouana, have underscored the conference's importance and significance.

Dr Clarke, who noted the high-level multisectoral decision-makers slated to attend, is anticipating vibrant inputs from them.

“All of the topics (being discussed) are relevant to Jamaica, the wider Caribbean and the overall policymaking process. So, one of the things we hope for is a ventilation of certain very important considerations,” he said.

“So, the information that comes out of the sessions… the arguments that are made in a particular direction or the counter-arguments made in another direction… what we hope is (that they) will have an influence on future policies,” he told JIS News.

While acknowledging that Jamaica and other regional States have recorded annual growth averaging less than one per cent over the past 30 years, Dr Clarke contends that “the Caribbean has been at the forefront of growth in the world before, and I think we all believe that it can do so again”. For his part, Dr Lonkeng anticipates that the Forum will be “very exciting”, based on the itinerary for the proceedings.

He says the conference is being staged against the background of the low levels of economic growth across the region, and “underscores the partnership that the IMF wants to sustain with Jamaica and the Caribbean”.

Dr Lonkeng told JIS News that in addition to regional policymakers, “we will have international experts who have dealt with some of the issues that the Caribbean faces today”.

“They will be coming together to discuss structural impediments to growth in the region… how to strike the balance between growth and financial stability… and discuss how to strengthen the resilience of the Caribbean, how to withstand shocks and how, in the first place, to prevent some of the shocks,” he said.

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