By Douglas Mcintosh
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, says she is confident in Jamaica’s ability to sustain and enhance economic stability, through government’s implementation of the Economic Reform Programme (ERP).
She also expressed similar confidence for other Caribbean islands, which she says are also undertaking similar programmes.
The IMF chief made her remarks while delivering a special lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus on Friday, on the theme: ‘The Caribbean and the IMF’.
Lagarde noted that while Jamaica has not overcome all of its economic challenges, “we can already see signs of calm seas ahead”, due to the implementation of the ERP.
These, she reiterated, includes: a seven per cent reduction in public debt; restoration of economic growth; improvements in the public purse; and reduction in inflation, and external account deficits.
“The economy (grew) at a rate of 1.6 percent, year over year, in the first quarter of 2014. If you look at (several) other countries in the (region, their performance is) certainly not as good as that number that you have turned up,” she stated.
The managing director noted “similar signs” in other countries that are “navigating their way through difficult reforms.” These, she said, include St Kitts and Nevis, which recorded four percent economic growth in 2013, and a one-third reduction in debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio; and Antigua and Barbuda, where the public debt has fallen by 15 percent.
Lagarde said these developments indicate the Caribbean’s “proven ability” to change. This, she noted, is further evidenced by the region’s shift from being predominantly agricultural to a service economy, with activities directly and indirectly related to tourism, while highlighting several other factors.
“The Caribbean, thanks to the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a few other (educational institutions), is also home to highly educated, (and) highly driven people. Added to that, the Caribbean has a legacy of good institutions with a thriving tradition of democracy and political accountability. This all bodes well for the future, especially if the region can (come to terms) with the twin challenges of competiveness and climate change,” she indicated.
Lagarde also praised the contribution and leadership of women, such as Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to and in the Caribbean’s advancement.
The managing director pointed out that implementation of economic reform programmes in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands represent “only the beginning of the journey”, adding that “achieving lasting success will take time.”
The lecture formed part of the itinerary for Lagarde’s three-day visit to Jamaica from June 26 to 28.
Read the full lecture here