Mark Golding and Prime Minister Andrew Holness
While the Government of Jamaica is celebrating the successful completion of the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, the Parliamentary Opposition has said it is concerned the reforms are not delivering the anticipated economic growth and poverty reduction.
The Opposition is asserting that prosperity remains an illusion for all but the privileged few.
Opposition Spokesman on Finance Mark Golding said the recent trends are not encouraging, with 2017 data showing an increase in poverty and GDP growth for the second quarter of 2019 slowing to one per cent.
"Everybody had hoped and expected that after six and a half years of reform and debt reduction, that we would be seeing high levels of growth. Remember 'five-in-four' was what was promised - five per cent growth at the end of four years. Well, we're in the fourth year now and we're struggling at growth of around one per cent and we're seeing poverty increase... So now that we're leaving the IMF, we need to start to focus on the things that can enhance growth," he declared.
In addition, the Opposition said the Bank of Jamaica's reduction of its policy rate and efforts to increase liquidity in the market are not yet showing an impact on economic growth.
Mr. Golding said the lay-offs and impending closure of JISCO/Alpart will have a further dampening effect on economic growth.
In addition, he said adverse weather conditions could also impact growth in agriculture.
In the meantime, Mr. Golding said the government needs to increase its spending to avoid worsening an already bad situation.
He noted that for the first four months of this fiscal year, the Government has run a primary surplus that is exceeding the budget by $5.6 billion, while capital expenditure is below budget by $4.2 billion.
Mr. Golding said both of these need to be brought back in line with the budget.
"What we need to see is, where additional fiscal space is created over time as a result of the reform, improved tax collections, etc., how we deploy those additional resources is very important and we need to use those resources to effectively tackle the impediments to growth so that we grow faster and reduce our debt quicker and improve the quality of life for our citizens more quickly and deal with some of the very serious social problems that we have which are not really being tackled at all and which are contributing to the national security crisis in which we're living," he suggested.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said the government will resist the pressure to spend which will come now that the IMF programme is over.