The Opposition today said that the results of therecent Jamaica Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Consumer Confidence Survey, which showed the largest ever quarterly decline in consumer confidence and a massive decline in business confidence with most firms expecting the economy to worsen, as yet another indication that the Jamaican economy is veering dangerously off course under the Simpson-Miller led administration.
Opposition Spokesman for Finance, Planning, Growth and Economic Development, Mr. Audley Shaw, pointed out that the numbers of consumers and businesses with declining hopes and expectations for better are declining at a rapid rate largely as a result of the government’s poor management of the country’s economic affairs and gross lack of direction. Mr. Shaw said that this is further reinforced by the first quarter decline in the economy and crumbling macro-economic indicators. This includes the drop in the Net International Reserves (NIR) from US$2 billion when the Government took office to US$1.5 billion today and the sliding exchange rate with the Jamaican dollar moving from J$86 to US$1 to near $90 to US$1 coupled with the onset of double digit inflation and a likely up tick in interest rates.
Mr. Shaw said further that, the confusion surrounding a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement seven months into the life of the new government, despite three trips to Washington by Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips and the employment of 12 Advisors, Consultants and Assistants for his office alone, has only worsened an already serious situation.
Mr. Shaw stated that the previous JLP administration left the current Simpson-Miller administration with a healthy NIR, a stable exchange rate, low inflation, lower and falling interest rates with home mortgage rates dropping to single digits and the economy growing by 1.3 per cent last calendar year.
Mr. Shaw said that among the issues that must now be addressed immediately are:
1) the Minister’s clarification on the actual timing of the visit of the IMF negotiating team as the possibility of securing a new Agreement this year is now most unlikely
2) the removal of the veil of secrecy over the terms and conditions of the loans from two local commercial banks last week to settle a us$265m international loan payment (including interest rates applicable)
3) and the announcement of a realistic and practical time frame for the completion of Tax Reform, Pension Reform and establishing a credible framework for the settlement of Public sector salaries within the targeted band.”
“The Minister of Finance and the Government must now stop the dilly dallying and the blame game and get on with restoring confidence in this fragile economy,” Mr Shaw said.