Let us not lose this momentum
Friday, August 31, 2018
Two reports this week from entities established to monitor and guide the Government's economic policy and performance have stated in no uncertain terms that the country is moving in the right direction.
First was the Economic Growth Council (EGC) led by Mr Michael Lee-Chin, and second the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) headed by Mr Keith Duncan. Both are astute, experienced, and highly successful businessmen who could have simply sat back and enjoyed their lives and achievements instead of accepting assignments to help improve the country.
On Sunday, the EGC, in its sixth quarterly report to the nation, pointed out that in this quarter Jamaica has experienced:
• Tax collection of $79.9b or 9.2 per cent above the $73.2b target, and Tax Administration Jamaica is on track to exceed the annual target of $320b.
• Bank of Jamaica has lowered the policy interest rate to two per cent, the eighth consecutive decrease since 2016.
•Inflation falling below the targeted four per cent to six per cent for the month of June 2018 at 2.8 per cent.
• Net International Reserves reached its highest level at US$3.14B.
• Debt to GDP ratio has fallen to 105 per cent and is projected to dip below 100 per cent by the end of the fiscal year 2018-19.
• Both Fitch and Moody's credit rating for Jamaica stand at B and the outlook in both cases was improved from stable to positive in 2018.
• Unemployment reported at 9.7 per cent, the lowest in over 10 years.
• The second-quarter 2018 data of the Survey of Business and Consumer Confidence continues to highlight a sustained period of confidence amongst both groups, with an average of 150 points. This represents the highest recorded since the start of the survey in the second quarter of 2001.
• Poverty rate has decreased from 21 per cent to 17 per cent in 2016, a 19 per cent drop and the largest annual reduction in 10 years, and
• GDP growth of 1.8 per cent.
On Wednesday, EPOC, in a statement expressing support for the Administration's flexible exchange rate and inflation-targeting policies, said that the economic reform programme is bearing fruit.
While noting that the reforms have not been easy and came at great sacrifice, EPOC urged all Jamaicans to support the measures as they will build on the success to date.
That is, no doubt, music the ears of Jamaicans, particularly those of an older vintage who experienced extremely tough economic conditions due to reckless policies in the past that placed partisan politics above the interest of the country.
Now that the country appears to have been divested of that “run wid it” culture, there are signs of increasing investor confidence.
The EGC report pointed to a few issues that need urgent attention in order to “exploit” this investor confidence. On Wednesday we raised some of them in this space and appealed to the Government, as well as the relevant authorities, to get them done. For, as the EGC correctly stated, “economic growth will be the panacea to most of our problems”.
The Government, the Opposition, churches, civil society groups and all other entities that have influence owe it to the people of this country to ensure that we don't stray from this path and that the necessary growth-inducing improvements are made.
Let us not lose this momentum.