published: Friday | March 26, 2004 The Gleaner
By Monique Hepburn, Staff Reporter
Dr. Omar Davies (right) shares a laugh with Denise Henry-James, attorney-at-law, and Winston Dear, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, yesterday. - Herbert Mckenis/Freelance Photographer
MINISTER OF Finance Dr. Omar Davies, confident of a boom in investments, yesterday proclaimed that the coming fiscal year would be the best ever since his appointment in 1993, weeks ahead of his next budget presentation.
"This year has started off well. I am more confident now than I have been in over 10 years that I have been Finance Minister," Dr. Davies told business leaders in Montego Bay. "Never in our history in terms of firm commitments for investments in tourism are we going to have such a boom."
Dr. Davies was speaking at a meeting of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry held at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort.
While refraining from divulging any of the contents of the upcoming budget, he said the country could expect a tremendous boost in its economic prospects and an overall increase in the volume of investments.
The Estimates of Expenditure are due for tabling on March 31, and the budget presented in mid-April. Inflows from investments in tourism and the bauxite industry, the Minister said, would serve to boost the country's balance of payments, accounts which record the flow of trade and investments between Jamaica and its trading partners.
"Last year was a very difficult year - debt servicing increased by $17 billion more than we had programmed" translating, he said, to four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Pointing to positive indicators which he indicated were shaping his outlook, the Finance Minister cited the current balance in the Net International Reserve (NIR) which now stands at just under US$1.5 billion having fallen last year to US$1.1 billion and pointed to growth in the tourism sector of seven per cent in 2003.
He predicts that tourism would grow even more in the coming fiscal year, based on the planned construction of new hotels in St. Ann, Trelawny, Negril and Montego Bay.
Responding to questions about the life span of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC), Dr. Davies said that although it accounted for one third of Jamaica's debt, he did not regret its intervention as it provided a net for 570,000 insurance policies valued at $175 billion.
"I am unrepentant about the intervention," Dr. Davies declared.
"It was costly for us; it has placed debt servicing as a major burden on the budget; (and) created problems in terms of our credit rating, but I do not (regret) ever having been party to the intervention.
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