|Gov't hoping to stabilise economy this year
|CHARMAINE CLARKE, Assistant news editor
Friday, April 04, 2003
THE Patterson administration, struggling for the past 14 years to achieve growth, yesterday vowed to create the economic climate to stabilise the economy, despite what Governor- General Sir Howard Cooke described as an uncertain financial climate worldwide.
"Your Government is resolved to ensure that efficiency and effectiveness in all areas of its operations will provide the returns in stability and growth, which are being challenged by the present uncertainties in the international situation," the governor-general said during the throne speech that signalled the official opening of Parliament
Admitting that the year ahead will be difficult, he said the Government will meet its objectives through increased efficiency, prudent fiscal management, effective revenue collection and cost-cutting measures.
The Government has steadily warned of tough times ahead, as the tourism-reliant country absorbs the shocks from a fall-off in visitor arrivals as a result of the war in Iraq. But critics have insisted that while the war will have an adverse impact on the economy, the Government is attempting to use it as a scapegoat for the country's worsening economic problems.
The last fiscal year ended with a public sector deficit at eight per cent of GDP; the debt at 140 per cent of GDP; the dollar under increasing pressure despite the hiking of interest rates to a five-year high; and warnings that the country is on the verge of another fallout in the financial sector.
During the new budgetary year, the Government will look to development in agriculture, tourism and the gains to be made from the use of science and technology to help push-start the economy.
"Internet access will be brought to smaller marginalised communities under a new internationally funded project," the governor-general said. "Through the Scientific Research Council and the Bureau of Standards, we will be assisting selected small and medium sized businesses to improve their competitiveness."
And while the state grapples with the persistent problem of squatting, the Government will look to the private sector to help improve the country's housing stock. Sir Howard, giving a broad outline of the Government's plans for the year, spoke of the need to "immediately" bring private developers aboard.
Other major initiatives expected this budget year include the presentation, early in the legislative session, of the Terrorism (Prevention) Bill and the Criminal Justice Amendment (Plea Bargaining) Bill.
The Government will also continue its work on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, legislation for the Charter of Rights (Constitutional Amendment) Bill and the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The Government has also stressed its commitment to the acceleration and deepening of regional integration, as Jamaica gets ready to assume the chair at July's Caricom Summit in Montego Bay
The governor-general also used the throne speech to reaffirm the Government's stance on the US-led war on Iraq, and levelled a veiled criticism of the US' quasi-unilateral action by ignoring the advice of the United Nations.
"Our size compels us in the course of national self-interest to insist on the supremacy of the United Nations and respect its charter," he said. "Respect for our own sovereignty, respect for each other, the deliberate pursuit of social tranquility within our borders and the promotion of peace across the world must remain the meter we use to measure our response to whatever situations may confront us."