KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday May 30, 2012 – As of the close of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Jamaica’s debt stood at a staggering Jam$1.7 trillion, translating into Jam$600,000 for every Jamaican resident.
And according to Finance and Planning Minister Dr Peter Phillips, the country must work to reduce its debt, even as negotiations continue on a new standby arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Opening the 2012-2013 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, the finance minister emphasised that as of the close of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the country’s debt stood at $1.7 trillion (US$19.5 billion) or $600,000 (US$6,900) for every resident of Jamaica.
“Let me make it clear, this is Jamaica’s problem and not that of the IMF. The bottom line is that we must set our debt as measured by its GDP (gross domestic product) firmly on a downward trajectory,” Phillips said.
The minister stressed that with the international donors withholding grant assistance until a deal is worked out with the IMF, it is imperative that the country develops the comprehensive policies needed to put the country on a solid path to reducing the debt burden.
In the meantime, he stated that the budget debate assumes special significance this year as the country celebrates its 50th anniversary of Independence.
He declared that the country has a lot to be proud of, “for no one can deny the genuine progress that our country has made over these 50 years”.
“We have sustained and deepened our democracy; we have created a more egalitarian social order by providing unprecedented access to education and training at all levels and the improvements to our healthcare system have made life expectancy in Jamaica comparable to that which obtains in the developed countries of the world. Our performance in housing construction and the modernisation of our physical infrastructure is a source of national pride,” Phillips noted.