Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says Jamaica is poised to rebound “even stronger” from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2021.
This, he said, by virtue of the “deep resilience” the country has exhibited to COVID-19, consequent on the Government’s risk-based management approach to the crisis while maintaining macroeconomic stability.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said significant breakthroughs in COVID-19 testing and vaccines, “give us cause for optimism”.
He was speaking during the 16th Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Regional Investments and Capital Markets Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on Tuesday (January 26).
Mr. Holness said Jamaica, like other countries, was not spared the pitfalls of COVID-19.
He cited among the negative outcomes first quarter 2020/21 fiscal-year contraction of 18.4 per cent, from April to June 2020; an 85.6 per cent decline in the hotels and restaurants sector, which captures the majority of Jamaica’s tourism activity, during the period, mainly resulting in a fall in foreign exchange earned through that channel; and a $71-billion decline in government revenue inflows, as at December 2020.
Despite these, Mr. Holness said the Government has managed the situation in “such a way as to ease the effect”.
He said notable among the positive outcomes were seven per cent growth in the construction sector during the July to September 2020 quarter; a 31.6 per cent increase in net remittance inflows between April and October 2020; net international reserves totalling over US$3 billion; and government expenditure remaining on target, with no new net borrowing.
“We have been able to attain this momentous achievement because of a strong base and buffers that we had built from our fiscal discipline over the last several years,” the Prime Minister stated.
Mr. Holness pointed out that these and other out-turns enabled Jamaica to be among the few countries globally that have been able to maintain debt sustainability throughout the pandemic.
The latter, he indicated, enabled the country to maintain its ‘B+’ sovereign rating, as recently reaffirmed by global credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.
“This is a signal of confidence in the economy and the direction of the Government’s economic policy against the background of the pandemic,” the Prime Minister added.
Mr. Holness assured that having worked hard to achieve the outcomes recorded thus far, the Administration is committed to remaining steadfast “on the path of prudent management”.
He said this will be done by institutionalising fiscal transparency and further strengthening Jamaica’s fiscal responsibility framework, noting that work has started with the tabling of the Independent Fiscal Commission Act, 2020.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the Commission will promote sound policy and management to sustain fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability.
“We are putting in place an independent institution that will ensure that governments to come… will stay on the path of fiscal discipline,” he further stated.
The three-day JSE conference was held from January 26 to 28 under the theme ‘Restructuring, Restoring and Renewing: Reconnecting the Pillars of the Capital Markets’.