He noted that while the programme is challenging, there is evidence that it is delivering positive results, and he expressed commendation to the public sector workers, pensioners, bond holders and others for the sacrifices made.
Addressing the Mayberry Investor Forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on Wednesday, Dr. Phillips cited a number of achievements under the programme, to include a reduction of the country’s debt, narrowing of the current account balance of payments; downward trends in unemployment; and an inflation rate below target.
“Our inflation out-turn this calendar year of 6.4 per cent has been the lowest perhaps for close to a decade… we have maintained a competitive exchange rate; and foreign direct investments (FDIs) increased 74 per cent between 2012/13 and 2013/14. As a per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), it went up from 3.2 per cent to 5.3 per cent,” he noted.
The Finance Minister said the commitments made to public sector workers regarding retroactive monies have also been met. In addition, “payment for the reclassification of nurses, teachers, etcetera, has been met, even in the context of us aiming at the nine per cent wages to GDP measure,” he pointed out.
He said the economy had returned to growth, and while there was a setback during the third quarter of last year, due to severe drought, growth should return for the quarter ending December 31, and continue during the March quarter.
Dr. Phillips said the positive gains that have been achieved during the period of reform have “not gone unnoticed in the international investor community” and this is reflected in the country’s improved position in the global doing business rankings.
Jamaica moved up 27 places from 85 to 58 in the World Bank’s Doing Business report, to become the Caribbean’s highest ranked country in terms of ease of doing business, while the country’s ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report move up eight places to 86 out of 144 countries.
International credit rating agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has improved its outlook on Jamaica from stable to positive.
Dr. Phillips said the Government has laid a strong foundation through fiscal consolidation, structural reforms, and financial prudence, and “as we go forward, the priority must be on growth and job creation, without sacrificing the fiscal prudence, which has brought us this far.”
He used the opportunity to encourage members of the private sector to continue investing in Jamaica’s future.