Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, is reporting that the country has successfully passed the targets set under the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement.
“As at the end of December 2017, the Government of Jamaica has successfully met all the quantitative performance criteria and indicative targets agreed with the IMF,” he said.
He was speaking as he opened the 2018/19 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on March 8.
Giving an update on the public-sector transformation exercise, he informed that the Government has divested Caymanas Track Limited and is in the process of merging three regulatory agencies – the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission, the Casino Gaming Commission, and the Jamaica Racing Commission – into a single regulatory body.
He noted that the HEART Trust/NTA, Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning and the National Youth Service were also consolidated into a single entity.
In addition, several public bodies were closed, including the Board of Supervision, Kingston Waterfront Hotel Company; Montego Shopping Centre Limited; Portmore Commercial Development Limited; and the Road Maintenance Fund, whose activities were transferred to its parent Ministry – the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.
“We also wound up the Self-Start Fund, while the Agricultural Credit Board was closed and its functions transferred to the Department of Cooperatives and Friendly Societies,” Mr. Shaw told the House.
Meanwhile, the self-financed public bodies continue to contribute to the Government’s development and growth objectives.
Minister Shaw said, as a group, they are expected to generate an estimated $344 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2017/18.
“The group will also transfer a net $45 billion to the Central Government in terms of financial distribution, taxes and other programme support. This group has also continued to contribute to the development of the country’s infrastructure, with capital expenditure of $52 billion during fiscal year 2017/18. We have continued to tighten our belts – and we kept our commitment,” he said.
Turning to other matters, Minister Shaw told the House that lending to the private sector has continued to increase.
He said that growth in loans was 16 per cent in 2017, following an expansion of 14.1 per cent in 2016.
“This is the second year of strong growth and is evidence that our economic management is yielding benefits. We responded to the private sector, and we have kept our commitment,” Mr. Shaw noted.
He said that while this is encouraging, “we are still a long way off when we compare our private-sector credit to gross domestic product (GDP) of 26.4 per cent as at December 2017 against that of approximately 46 per cent for other Latin American and Caribbean countries, approximately 95 per cent for other middle-income countries globally, and well over 100 per cent in the United States. We still have more work to do, and we intend to do it”.