By Douglas McIntosh
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Outgoing International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief to Jamaica, Dr Uma Ramakrishnan, says she is confident the country can manage its economic affairs, following the conclusion of IMF programme arrangements in November.
“Without a doubt, we are able to leave with full confidence that the institutional and policy framework is in place… and the policy credibility is there for Jamaica to carry on its own affairs,” she said.
The mission chief was responding to questions from journalists during a media round-table forum at the ministry of finance and the public service in Kingston, on September 20.
Dr Ramakrishnan was appointed mission chief in 2015 described her tenure as “a very intense, productive, and constructive engagement” during which “I had the privilege to work across two administrations”.
Dr Ramakrishnan also noted that on each occasion of the team’s visits to either conduct programme reviews or undertake related activities, “we would always engage with the opposition, whether it was under the previous or current administration”.
“The opposition has always been part of the [dialogue] that we have had to discuss policies, to talk about issues, to talk about their concerns… and we have been doing that across every single visit I have made to Jamaica,” she noted.
Dr Ramakrishnan said consequent on these engagements, “one thing I can take and walk away from this with great confidence is the commitment across the board to keep the policy credibility that Jamaica and the Jamaican people have worked so hard to achieve”.
She emphasised the importance of maintaining and enhancing the policy progress recorded over the last six years, initially under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and the successor precautionary Stand-By Arrangement, in order to ensure that future generations, like the present, can benefit.
“For me, it has been an absolute joy, privilege and honour to have worked here for four years and three months,” Dr Ramakrishnan said.
For his part, finance and public service minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, who also spoke at the forum, described Dr Ramakrishnan as “someone who has always had Jamaica’s best interest at heart”.
Finance and public service minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, says the impending conclusion of Jamaica’s precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will mark a significant milestone for the country.
“It represents the second time that Jamaica has successfully completed a Fund programme, [following] our early termination of the Extended Fund Facility [EFF],” Dr Clarke said.
Dr Clarke noted that Jamaica has recorded several achievements under the SBA, including a reduction in unemployment from 13.7 percent in April 2016 to 7.8 percent as at April 2019.
“Over that time, some 75,000 jobs have been created. Youth unemployment fell from a high of 32 percent in April 2016 to 19.5 percent in April 2019, and the number of persons employed in Jamaica, as at April 2019, was 1.25 million, the most that have ever been employed in the country,” the minister said.
“Jamaica has recorded 18 consecutive quarters of economic growth. I believe that this programme would be the only [one] that Jamaica has entered into under which, in every single quarter, the country has registered economic growth, albeit not as high as we’d want,” he said.
While acknowledging that “a lot of work is left to be done”, Dr Clarke said “it is useful to pause and consider the progress that we have made over this time”, adding that “the successes of the programme are evident in those numbers and the experience we all share in”.