By Bryan Miller
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- By the end of this fiscal year, Jamaica’s debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio will be about 139 percent, down from the 147 percent of last year.
Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Peter Phillips
This was stated by minister of finance and planning, Dr Peter Phillips, as he gave an update on the economic reform programme (ERP) at a stakeholders’ conference on February 28.
The minister said that the government will continue to implement measures to reduce it, as it plans to have a balanced budget for the next financial year.
The debt to GDP ratio compares what the country owes to what it produces annually.
Phillips also pointed out that the ERP has been effective as far as economic growth is concerned.
“Our growth in the June quarter of last year was flat; in the September quarter, already reported and confirmed by STATIN, growth was around 0.5 percent; and for the December quarter, IMF numbers had it at 1.4 percent. We expect that momentum to continue through the March quarter and we (should) end the fiscal year with growth somewhere between 0.7 and 1 per cent,” the minister said.
He noted that some sectors are experiencing growth, with mining at an annualised rate of about 15 percent; agriculture, 10 percent; tourism, between 5 and 6 percent; and quarrying and construction at about 2 percent. The minister added that the energy and manufacturing sectors were down a bit.
The minister pointed out that, despite the adjustment in the exchange rate, inflation will be contained within single digits by the end of the fiscal year, adding that there is also expected improvement in the net international reserves (NIR), which should be at US$1.3 billion by the end of the fiscal year, up from a little over US$790 million in March 2013.
“The budgets have been tight, but we have kept the faith as far as our commitment to social protection is concerned,” he assured.
“Our objective is to alleviate poverty, but our main objective, quite frankly, is to ensure that we can provide the growth and the jobs, so that we eliminate poverty as a phenomenon in our national life in the course of the next generation,” the minister added.
Phillips emphasized that the government intends to set the foundation for Jamaica to become a wealthy country.