Current Affairs

Current Affairs




PNP promises growth
Manifesto says economy ready for take-off

Observer Reporter
Tuesday, September 17, 2002


A pleased Prime Minister P J Patterson (second left) discusses the manifesto of his ruling People's National Party, with (from left) party chairman Robert Pickersgill, and vice presidents Portia Simpson Miller and Peter Phillips. The manifesto was launched yesterday at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. (Photo: John Nicholson)

AFTER a decade of negative and anaemic growth, the People's National Party (PNP) yesterday promised to expand to expand the economy by up to four per cent a year in the medium term and to cut the number of jobless in Jamaica by nearly 40 per cent, if it retains the government in the general election Prime Minister P J Patterson is expected to announce next week.

The government would also slash the national debt -- which at $500 billion is 130 per cent of annual output of goods and services -- to 100 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2006 as well as reduce poverty by 25 per cent, the PNP says.

These are among the promises contained in the PNP election manifesto, which was unveiled by party officials at a press conference at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel.

"Manifesto 2002 is our solemn covenant with the people of Jamaica as we continue our mission of creating a better life for all our people which they rightfully demand and deserve," Patterson said at its launch. "It is a blueprint for the next steps we pledge to take as we build on the solid foundations we have laid. We look forward eagerly to the public discourse and spirited debate which its publication will engender."

The document offers no fundamental policy departures. Essentially it is a restatement and enhancement of existing programmes and their context within a global environment.

On the economic front the PNP echoed the government's consistent position that it has succeeded "in establishing and consolidating macro-economic stability as a precondition for long-term economic growth".

These, the party, said, included low inflation, in the single digit range, a competitive and stable foreign exchange market and foreign reserves of over US$1.5 billion.

It was in this context, the PNP said, that it would generate two per cent to four per cent growth over the span of its next administration, and moving to an expansion of GDP to six per cent a year, thereafter.

In the decade up to 2001, the economy grew by an annual average of less than half of one per cent. But last year GDP growth, at 1.7 per cent, pushed past the one per cent mark for the first time in six years, a performance that was heralded as a turning point for the economy.

"We have already seen the first signs of sustainable growth, even in the face of recessionary conditions in the world economy and the damaging effects of the September 11, 2001 catastrophe in the USA," the manifesto said.

The growth in the economy, the ruling party projected, would lead to a reduction in unemployment "to 10 per cent or less". The unemployment rate has hovered at around 16 per cent in recent years.

Jamaica's gargantuan debt, whose servicing consumes about 60 per cent of the annual budget, is regarded as the major constricting factor for growth. By the administration's projection a new PNP government would, through a combination of growth in the economy and absolute reduction in what is owed, would bring the national debt in line with GDP over the next four years and thereafter further reduce it to 90 per cent of GDP.

This debt management strategy would be buttressed by "further reductions in interest rates to internationally competitive levels in order to boost investment and the production of goods and services" and fiscal deficit, at about five per cent of GDP, would return to surplus in 2006.

At the same time inflation, which has hovered at between seven and eight per cent, would be maintained close to five per cent as the administration moved for a 25 per cent improvement in the country's international competitiveness.

At the strategic level, the administration, the PNP said, would, among other things:

* prudently control new borrowings;

* lengthen the maturity profile of the public debt by issuing longer-term instruments;

* increasing local and foreign investments to stimulate growth;

* accelerate "the massive programme of infrastructure programme now underway;                                                   

* lead a major expansion of tourism;

* restructure the manufacturing sector;

* increase credit and technical support to small and informal entrepreneurs;

* improve social security to the vulnerable;

* widen market reform to further deregulate prices and wages in order to link income and productivity; and

* widen incentive programmes for urban renewal and business development.