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Jamaica Finance Minister: “Canada has a leading role to play in Jamaica's future"

Jamaica Finance Minister: “Canada has a leading role to play in Jamaica's future"

Posted by Juan Gavasa on May 08, 2015

Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and Planning, Peter Phillips, headed an official delegation that visited Canada this week. The delegation was also made up of the Governor of Jamaica’s Central Bank, Brian Wynter, and the Secretary of Finance, Devon Rowe. Mr. Phillips has held several meetings at different levels with cabinet representatives and members of the Canadian parliament, as well as members of the Jamaican diaspora in Canada.

One of the most important events on the Minister’s agenda was the lecture he gave to the Canadian Council for the Americas, the private Canadian institution aimed at fostering Canada’s business expansion in markets throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Peter Phillips talked about the economic challenges faced by his country, the achievements reached as a result of the introduction of an economic reform plan when he took office three years ago, and Jamaica's relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

(Left-Right) Robert Almeida, Managing Partner at Portland Holdings.  Kenneth Frankel, President of the Canadian Council for the Americas. Peter Phillips, Minister of Finance and Planning of Jamaica. Dieter Jentsch, Group Head of International Banking at Scotiabank. Brian Wynter, Governor of the Bank of Jamaica.

The Minister of Finance extolled the close relation between his country and Canada, manifested by means of work programs that benefit 8,000 Jamaican workers annually. Mr. Phillips commented on the remarkable role played by Canadian banks on the financial system of his country, and he made special mention to Scotia Bank, which has been operating in Jamaica since 1889. In this regard, Mr. Phillips recalled the open communication held between his cabinet and the Canadian financial entity, which has an “actively positive” presence in the country’s economic plans.

The Jamaican politician was categorical when he underlined that the economic future of his country “is strongly connected to a larger integration of Canada into Jamaica’s investment map”. In this regard, he pointed out that his government is fulfilling the obligations established by the agreement between Jamaica and the IMF to extend the Enhanced Fund Service, “and this situation has made us look credible to the eyes of the international community.”

Mr. Phillips underscored that the growth prospects of the country’s economy have been set at 4.9 percent to be achieved by the end of the 2017/18 period: a projection based on the international demand forecast of Jamaican products. He also said that several indicators show the positive behavior of Jamaica’s economy, such as the increase of employment rates, social policies and the improvement in the ranking of the best countries to do business (the country went from the 84th position to the 58th).

However, the Jamaican Minister admitted that his country has to face important challenges. The first one aims at maintaining the growth levels “so as to guarantee social policies”. In the same breath, the country is betting on policies to foster competitiveness and introduce new economic reforms that contribute to strengthen the business environment. Mr. Phillips asserted that it’s necessary “to improve the access to credits, facilitate the processes to register a new company, increase the efficiency of public services, identify strategic projects, attract investment and create a more-favorable environment for startups and job generation.”

Jamaica’s agreement with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to enhance the support fund will come to an end at the beginning of 2017, and the devolution process will start a year later. That’s the reason why Jamaica’s economic policies are controlled by the IMF, which has limited the action capacity of the government. Mr. Phillips says to be confident because, as a result of this process, “Jamaica is ready to hold the rating of qualification agencies and its solvency in the financial markets.”

The Jamaican Minister of Finance highlighted the growing importance of tourism in the country’s economy. He indicated far investments in tourism hotel projects will be forthcoming and announced shortly. He also highlighted the recent announcement of President Barack Obama on the creation of an investment line of credit for Caribbean countries. Finally Mr. Phillips highlighted the strategic location of Jamaica, “equidistant from both North America and Latin America and very close to Panama Canal”, he detailed.

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