By Douglas McIntosh
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) Governor, Richard Byles, says the country’s net international reserves (NIR) remain healthy, amounting to US$3.3 billion, as at the end of April.
Speaking at the BOJ’s digital quarterly media briefing on May 21, Byles noted that additionally, since March 2020, the bank has purchased US$1.9 billion locally via market surrenders, which pay for government debt servicing and some energy imports.
Consequent to these and other developments, the governor said the BOJ is projecting that over the next two years, the current account deficit of the balance of payments will remain at sustainable levels of about 3-5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
“This is supported by expectations for a partial recovery in tourism arrivals, driven in large part by successful phased (COVID-19) vaccination programmes in key source markets and our assumption of careful control of community spread in Jamaica,” Byles added. “The bank also continues to intervene in the local foreign exchange market when temporary shortfalls have been identified.”
He indicated that total BOJ Foreign Exchange Intervention & Trading Tool (B-FXITT) flash sale operations, to date, since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, has amounted to US$411 million.
Byles noted that, despite the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, confidence in Jamaica’s market-driven foreign exchange system is such that flows remain strong, and assured that any business or individual requiring foreign currency “can access it.”
The governor reported that for the calendar year to the end of April 2021, daily purchases of US dollars by authorised dealers and cambios from end-users averaged US$35 million. Byles pointed out that this was higher than the average of US$28.9 million recorded over the same period last year.
“Similarly, daily sales to end-users averaged US$28.2 million since the start of 2021, above the average of US$25.2 million a year earlier,” he further informed. “The exchange rate depreciated by 5.6 percent between January 1 and May 17, when it stood at J$150.68 to the $US.”
“This pace of change is below the depreciation of 11.2 percent recorded over the same period last year, and is consistent with the usual seasonal pattern of flows in the market,” he noted.