The new US$750 million deal that Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached provides the Caribbean country with access to international financial flows and the best opportunity to restore confidence and embark on a path leading to a stronger and brighter future, says Finance & Planning Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips.
The IMF said the fund’s executive board could approve the loan by the end of March.
Phillips said the finalized deal is needed at this time to raise the growth rate and real income.
“We have an unsustainable level of public debt in Jamaica that has built up over many decades,” said Phillips who was here last weekend to deliver the keynote address at the Jamaica College Old Boys’ Association of Canada’s (JCOBAC) 25th anniversary gala in Brampton. “It’s an impediment to our progress as a country and as a people.
“To that extent, we need the seal of approval conferred by the IMF for our economic reform program to facilitate access to main capital markets of the world and access to financing available in those markets and also from the multilateral financial institutions. It’s very important that we undertake the challenges, but the world wouldn’t believe in the efficacy of our program unless we are able to secure the approval of the fund.”
The IMF loan was contingent on Jamaica signing up most of its domestic-law bond holders. The six major owners of Jamaica’s bonds have agreed to participate in the exchange – the second in the last three years – that will also swap about $9 billion in existing debt for bonds with later maturity dates and lower interest payments.
Phillips said he does not envisage the IMF lifeline holding back Jamaica from its push to become a first world country by 2030 or stifling Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller’s pledge to make the country a republic.
“I certainly don’t see the economic reform program or the Fund support as a negative development,” said Phillips, who was a National Security Minister for six years in the P.J. Patterson cabinet. “Frankly, I think it will advance the process if we embrace it properly. The fact of the matter is that the fundamental requirement of sovereignty, as is the case of individuals when they attain adulthood, is to do the difficult yet necessary things to ensure that you make your way in the world and you do so efficiently.
“So, despite the real difficulties that many of the decisions will involve politically and despite the fact there will be sacrifices in the short term that will have to be made by various segments of the population, these are just the usual course of policy-making for countries that aspire to excellence and economic vibrancy.”
With Jamaica in an economic depression, Phillips said this is the ideal opportunity for nationals and others to invest in the country and in the process contribute to nation-building.
“There are tremendous opportunities to engage in productive investment and to make a contribution not only to your bottom line in terms of profit, but to improve the well-being of the Jamaican population,” said Phillips. “Now is the time for people to strike out and make a commitment to Jamaica.”
Phillips took time-out from hectic IMF negotiations in the last few months to join fellow high school graduates now residing in Canada. He said the institution shaped his personal and professional development.
“Jamaica College has had a tremendous influence on my life,” said Phillips, a former People’s National Party vice-president and general secretary. “I have very positive memories of my time there. I was fortunate to have boarded at the school and the influence on me through that experience was more pervasive than if I had just been a day student.
“The kernel of the whole experience was the set of values that the school was able to confer on me. They ranged from commitment to excellence and learning to teamwork and fair play. Those values, in a sense, are eternal. They have served me well and I think they have served Jamaica well.”
Since its formation 25 years ago, the JCOBAC has donated over $300,000 in assistance for the athletic programs, educational material, laptop computers, smart boards and furniture to the all-boys school that has an enrolment of about 1,800.
In the past year, the Canadian alumni sent 70 laptop computers and furniture for teachers worth about Can$27,000.
“When this organization was established, we made a pledge to support our alma mater and we have done that,” said JCOBAC president and 1973 graduate, Edmund Munroe. “We are now looking for younger graduates living here to join us in our efforts to keep the momentum going as we move forward.”
Jamaica’s Consul General, George Ramocan, praised the alumni group for staying the course during tough economic times.
“This is a truly remarkable and memorable milestone in a long journey of service to your alma mater to maintain the high standard of education and training for which Jamaica College has come to be known,” said Ramocan.
“In challenging economic times such as we live in, the role of the JCOBAC is invaluable for providing support to maintain your school’s high quality and standard of tuition and extra-curricular activities. Your charitable work has positively impacted the lives of numerous students who would have otherwise performed poorly because of inadequate facilities and support.”
Established in 1789 by a Barbadian, Charles Drax, Jamaica College has produced 17 Rhodes Scholars, including the late Premier Norman Manley and his son, the late Michael Manley, who was Jamaica’s fourth Prime Minister; former Prime Minister Bruce Golding and ex-West Indies cricket captain Jimmy Adams, who is Kent’s coach.
The school is Jamaica’s third oldest behind Wolmer’s and Manning, established in 1729 and 1738, respectively.