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Jamaica sets economic growth target

Jamaica sets economic growth target
Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke. (GP)

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KINGSTON – Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, says the prospects of Jamaica rebounding from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic to record growth within the range of 3 to 8 per cent, beginning fiscal year 2021-22 are “very realistic”.

“As long as we can roll out our vaccine programme, beginning April 2021, and our markets to the north continue with their vaccine roll-out, I’m confident that the projections will absolutely be met,” he said.

The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are among the institutions forecasting the turnaround from the 10 to 12 per cent economic contraction projected for fiscal year 2020-21.

“The biggest indicator of that [turnaround] is where we saw construction, in the middle of the pandemic, grow by seven per cent during the quarter ending September 2020,” Clarke pointed out.

Of note, he said, is that the government’s contribution to construction during the quarter was “quite muted” because “we would have cut our capital budget”.

Clarke said that the nature of the decline in 2020, which was as much as 18 per cent during the April to June quarter “is not a result of any structural deficiencies in Jamaica, or elsewhere that we have imported,” but rather COVID-19.

He said that the government is continuing to assess the extent of the economic fallout on Jamaicans to determine whether to extend additional financial assistance to those adversely affected.

The administration initiated the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme in April 2020 to provide grant support to individuals and businesses that were impacted. Grants totalling over J$3.6 billion (US$24.8 million) were paid to more than 400 000 beneficiaries.

Clarke noted that the initial provision was in response to the “sharpness” of the pandemic’s effect.

“The losses were quick and they came hard. Over 130 000 jobs were lost in four months, so we had to respond [accordingly],” he pointed out.

The Minister said the administration would continue analysing the impact of COVID-19 “and make decisions [regarding additional financial assistance] based on those assessments”. (CMC)