As Keynote Speaker at the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s (PSOJ) Chairman’s Club Forum at the Jamaica Pegasus, Gerard Johnson, the Country Representative for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), discussed a post-International Monetary fund (IMF) Jamaica based on the Government’s economic agenda and the adjustments that have to be made. Mr. Johnson addressed a crowd that included some of Jamaica’s key business figures, his presentation titled “Life After the IMF”, which detailed challenges faced by the country and the consequent support to be received from the IDB.

The bank is slated to distribute approximately US$600 million by the end of the year, designated for four primary areas the bank feels are important: competitiveness, public financial management, human capital development and education. Mr. Johnson noted that the country has battled stagnant growth and reduced productivity, only to have these and other areas harder hit when the international economic downturn drastically reduced remittances, bauxite and tourism. The result was negative growth, a crippling factor that perpetuated a vicious cycle. The state of the economy calls for drastic measures, he insisted, a process that has already begun with the unprecedented Jamaica Debt Exchange programme, which he praised, but that must continue with reduced spending, legislation to guide fiscal responsibility and increased revenue.

As with all loan agreements, Mr. Johnson was quick to specify, there are risks. “Nevertheless, by 2012, Jamaica should be on the way to climbing out of the debt trap, growing steadily yet modestly, and fostering both public and private investment and better social spending and infrastructure, particularly in the health and education sectors,” he says. These far outweigh the what-ifs, such as natural disasters, loss of confidence from external supporters, imported inflation and slipping fiscal targets that could affect the success.
The IDB was the first multi-lateral lender to support the Government’s economic agenda, Mr. Johnson said, coming on to provide immediate support, which is crucial if the programme is ever to be a success. He closed by encouraging the audience to participate in such a historical economic renovation.

Mr. Johnson has worked as an economist throughout Latin America and the Caribbean for the past 30 years, lending his skills to such projects as the emblematic Rio Branco-Porto Velho Road Project in the Brazil and University of the West Indies’ largest science and technology expansion project. From 2000 to 2003 he was the IDB Country Representative in Haiti, and in Guatemala from 2003 to 2006.

For more information on Mr. Johnson’s presentation, visit the IDB website at www.iadb.org and select “Countries” and “Jamaica” for a full transcript of the presentation.

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