The following is a response by Opposition Spokesman for Finance, Planning, Growth and Economic Development, Mr. Audley Shaw
The Government’s position on the state of negotiations with the IMF is confused and conflicting.
In Parliament, as late as last week, the Minister of Finance gave the impression that an agreement is on track with the IMF by December. But in her speech at the National Arena, the Prime Minister is singing a different song which casts doubt on the actual time it will take to secure an agreement.
The Prime Minister said “it is difficult to provide a definitive date for an IMF Agreement and we do not intend to make any predictions or pronouncements.”
Did Peter Phillips approve the script from which the Prime Minister spoke? Especially having regard to the fact that he has consistently told us of his expectation of a December Agreement.
To add further to the intrigue, the IMF representative has himself cautioned against setting time lines for an agreement, obliquely implying that prior action implementation is required on Tax Reform and other benchmarks before discernible progress toward an agreement can be made.
The clearest conclusion that can therefore be drawn from this picture of confusion and contradictory statements from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance is that so far it’s all talk and no action and until there is measurable and verifiable prior action, there will be no IMF Agreement, leaving the country adrift with no access to critical external resources, thereby putting the stability of the economy at risk.
We take note of the PM’s simplistic trotting out of the JLP’s record over the last four years without honestly and graciously accepting that the JLP inherited a low growth and highly indebted economy and had to simultaneously cope with a world economic crisis and despite all this, kept the economy stable with a healthy NIR, a stable exchange rate, low inflation, record low interest rates and a return to growth in the economy.
The Prime Minister laments that 58 percent of the budget goes to service debt without remembering that in Omar Davies’ 14 years as Minister, debt servicing as a percentage of the budget was also over 50 percent and on several occasions was over 60 percent.
Mr. Shaw said that during his tenure as Minister, debt servicing as a percentage of the budget went to as low as 47 percent.
Mr. Shaw also said that the Prime Minister was being less than honest in announcing investment projects, most of which were conceived, booked and financed during the tenure of the JLP, without acknowledging the role of the previous Government in their implementation.