MONTEGO BAY: Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Derrick Kellier, is urging Jamaicans to be patient as government executes a reform program under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement to spur economic growth.
“Given the present dispensation in which we are forced to operate as a nation, we have no option at this time but to endure a little longer, the stringencies and fiscal discipline imposed by the administration’s Economic Reform Program,” he said last week during the 33rd annual Jamaica Employers Federation Business and Workplace Convention and Expo, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
Kellier said it was the absence of such a program, prior to now, that placed Jamaica among the most indebted nations in the world and stagnated its economy for 40 years.
“Happily, the Jamaican economy is a far cry from this reality,” he said. “A lot of our economic indices in the 2014-2015 period are demonstrating positive results of the country’s comprehensive Economic Reform Program under the four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement with the IMF.”
Kellier said there is now an opportunity for a partnership among all Jamaicans – the private and public sectors, the labour movement, civil society and the government – to “join hands, hearts and brains in the transformation of the economy and society through collaboration at all levels and innovation in terms of research and development, to spur long term growth and development.
“The economy, at long last, is growing at a rate of 1.5 per cent, setting the stage for the generation of confidence in the ability of the economy to achieve further levels of growth (1.6 per cent annually over the next five years) and stability,” he said, noting that the country’s business and consumer confidence is extremely high, with 65 per cent of firms reporting that it was a good time to expand their productive capacity.
Among other indicators listed by Kellier were investment plans that have moved 10 per cent higher than the prior peak of 55 per cent in the second quarter of 2014; inflation trending down from 9.3 per cent in January 2014 to 5.3 per cent for the year to date; the reduction of the food import bill by 4.5 per cent over the corresponding period in 2013; as well as a decline in the debt to GDP ratio.
The Jamaica Employers Federation Business and Workplace Convention and Expo is the largest of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean. The event, held from May 21 to 24, was attended by participants from the public and private sectors, as well as academia in Jamaica, the Caribbean, the United States and Canada.