Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke and Opposition Spokesman on Finance Julian Robinson
Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke has said the pace and momentum of Jamaica's economic recovery is encouraging and he expects a return to pre COVID-19 levels of output soon.
Dr. Clarke made the comments as he opened the debate on the second supplementary estimates of expenditure in the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Clarke said Jamaica's growth recovery is ahead of similar countries.
"STATIN (Statistical Institute of Jamaica) reported that the economy grew by 5.8% in the quarter ended September 2021, and this exceeds the pace of recovery in our peer group countries in the Caribbean and peer group countries elsewhere. However, we have still not recovered to pre COVID levels of economic output, but the pace and momentum of the economic recovery so far is very encouraging and suggests that the economy will attain pre COVID levels of output in real terms in the not-too-distant future," he told the House.
Eariler, during a sitting of the Standing Finance Committee, Dr. Clarke was quizzed on how the additional sums in the budget would be funded.
The government has tacked on $25.8 billion to the 2021/2022 budget and says it expects to bring in an addition $11 billion in tax revenues to help to fund it.
Dr. Clarke acknowledged there was a decrease in tax revenues up to November, but said a turnaround is expected.
"The November figures that were posted didn't include an amount for bauxite levy of about $2 billion that came in. The preliminary numbers for December, which, you know, we hope will be published at the scheduled date, show that...we're on par for December," he explained.
But Opposition Spokesman on Finance Julian Robinson warned that Jamaica will return to sluggish annual growth if urgent attention is not paid to increasing exports.
He noted that despite huge growth figures recently, the economy is still below pre COVID-19 levels.
"I think it's important going forward as we move to recover fully from COVID that we emphasize how we can put in place measures to grow the economy, and in particular our export sectors - and the export sectors that I would refer to are manufacturing and agriculture. We will have the one off close to a V-shaped recovery, but after this year we're going to fall back into the one and the two per cent growth rate which has been our average for the last 40 years. The only way we can get out of that is to place more emphasis on those sectors while investing a lot to recover from the education fallout," he suggested.
The House of Representatives has approved the $893 billion spending package for this fiscal year.