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Joint venture interest up

marciadottin, [email protected]

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KINGSTON – Head of the National Education Trust (NET), Paul Matalon, says there have been several expressions of interest from the private sector to partner with government to build schools.NET is charged with the responsibility of building education infrastructure throughout the country, but Matalon told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Thursday that the country’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) presents a binding constraint.“It is a restrictive criterion that is there, that is right across government now, that includes the (education) ministry now and the NET operation,” Matalon said during the forum held at the newspaper’s North Street,  central Kingston offices.Jamaica entered into an agreement with the IMF this year to borrow up to US$1.2 billion. A condition of the agreement is that the country’s debt cannot be increased.Minister of Education Andrew Holness has said that owing to government’s inability to fund the construction of schools, it would need to partner with private entities in joint ventures.Matalon said: “A lot of interest has been put there so far, and we are working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with a consultation to look at two aspects.“The United States Agency for International Development is helping us onone side in terms of tax implications, which is in process, and we are working with the IDB to look at the different structures so that we can put together the Jamaican model,” Matalon said. He told the forum that one aspect of the model being considered is the use of an education bond, but that that, too, had to be pursued in terms of the debt criteria of the IMF.“[The IMF] is now being approached on a matter to try and exempt education from that requirement because in effect, you are going to pay back this money over a 30 to 35-year period, so even though you are taking on the debt up front, it is really an amortisation payment that is going to come back out of this programme. So that is being examined, and before the end of the year, we are hoping to have that way forward,” Matalon explained. (Jamaica Gleaner)