February 12, 2013 | 3:36 pm | Print
Above: Kingston (CJ Photo)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Jamaica must address “with urgency” the structural impediments to the country’s growth, including its excessive debt burden, the International Monetary Fund said following its visit to the country.
The statement by Jan Kees Martijn, who led the mission, followed a national address last night by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips announcing that the country was “finalizing” a deal with the multilateral lender.
Martijn said Jamaica had seen “very low economic growth, declining productivity and reduced international competitiveness” over the last three decades.
“An important factor behind these problems has been Jamaica’s unsustainable debt burden, which has undermined confidence and elevated risks to economic stability,” he said. “Additionally, Jamaica’s high debt service has limited the government’s potential to provide the services needed to achieve sustained rates of growth and increased welfare for its citizens.”
Martijn said the IMF was continuing to work “assiduously” with Jamaican authorities on an economic programe, and had made “significant progress” in reaching understandings on strengthening Jamaica’s macroeconomic policies.
That includes achieving higher primary fiscal surpluses and structural reforms to pave the way for private-sector growth, he said.
The highlight of Simpson Miller’s address last night was that Jamaica would pursue a debt exchange offer with its creditors.
The IMF said it welcomed that move as an “important element aimed at helping to put public debt firmly on a downward trajectory.”
“A successful debt exchange will require high participation from creditors to help secure financing assurances for a Fund-supported program,” he said.