Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Election pledge - PNP looks to reduce debt mountain

By McPherse Thompson, Staff Reporter
Jamaica Gleaner
Friday, September 20, 2002

A REDUCTION of Jamaica's almost $500 billion domestic and foreign debt will become a major plank of the People's National Party's (PNP) strategic thrust to achieve its major macro-economic targets, if it forms the Government again after the upcoming general election.

As part of the debt management strategy, the Party said the Government would exercise prudent control of new borrowing, and would lengthen the maturity profile of the public debt by issuing longer term investment instruments.

"The national debt is a critical constraint and therefore its reduction is a matter of high priority," said the PNP's manifesto, launched at a function at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Monday.

Although the PNP has committed itself to undertake a number of new programmes if it forms the Government for a fourth consecutive term, much of the programmes seek to build on what it said it has achieved during the past 13 years. To that end, the Party, whose policy document is entitled "Advancing the Quality Society", said it would undertake a number of programmes that would lead to wealth creation and equity; build a prosperous nation; create a kinder, gentler society; an educated, skilled and enlightened population; the fulfilment of personal and collective potential, and a first-world Jamaica.

According to the Party, within the context of a liberalised economy, it has succeeded in establishing and consolidating macro-economic stability, a pre-condition for long term growth, a prerequisite for sustainable development. "We have now created the macro-economic fundamentals in the form of low inflation, a competitive and stable foreign exchange market and the accumulation of very substantial foreign reserves," the policy document said.

Recognising that its two to four per cent growth target would be largely dependent on the key economic indicators, the PNP said it would seek to further reduce inflation and interest rates. "At the same time, we will embark on a strict debt reduction and management strategy, which is essential to the task of lowering interest rates and stimulating strong economic growth and job creation."

The strategic thrust calls for continued stabilisation, reform and transformation of the economy to further strengthen the confidence of workers, investors and the financial markets. It would also seek to increase local and foreign investment in both the productive and service sectors to stimulate economic growth, employment and create wealth.

The PNP has also planned to accelerate its programme of infrastructure development and to launch new projects related to tourism, sea ports and airports, among other areas, as pathways to development. "These pathways will create the enabling environment necessary for expansion of production, increased efficiency, greater competitiveness, while enhancing the quality of life for the population," the manifesto said.

As part of the strategic thrust, the PNP said it would revitalise agriculture as an anchor for dynamic rural development, carry out major expansion in tourism based on the development and linkage of new cultural and heritage-centred attractions, as well as build new hotels on both the north and south coasts.

It would also restructure the manufacturing sector through partnerships with international firms and involving further integration with agriculture and tourism, while increasing access to credit and technical support for small and informal entrepreneurs.

A PNP Government would seek to improve the social security for vulnerable groups in the society, including an extension of the Programmes for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).

With the financial meltdown of the 1990s and the reorganisation of the entire sector still the focus of debate, the PNP said its strategic thrust also calls for the retention of legislative protection for depositors and insurance policyholders as part of the effort to maintain a healthy financial sector.

It would also continue market reform to deregulate prices and wages in order to link incomes and productivity, and maintain the removal of double taxation on dividends, which has resulted in a zero per cent income tax on dividends since April, this year. In addition, it plans to complete labour market reforms and undertake full pensions reform.

According to the Party, a cluster of major economic infrastructure projects would be an important source of investment, economic growth and job creation for both skilled and unskilled workers. "We are not building roads and other infrastructure simply for their own sake, but as part of the transformation process which is critical for development and for improving the efficiency and competitiveness of the productive sector to world class standards," said the manifesto.

Among those infrastructure projects, the Party said, would be "the most massive programme of rural road construction and repair even undertaken in Jamaica to correct past decades of under-investment that serves to impede full development of those areas."

As part of that project, funding of US$25 million has been put in place for the rehabilitation of 150 kilometres of rural main roads under an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) programme to be implemented over four years, starting next year.

The Kuwait/Saudi Arabia programme would provide US$30 million for the rehabilitation of another 150 kilometres of rural roads within the same period, it said.

Generally, the PNP said it would be "taking a holistic approach that builds on the success of our economic model and the vast investments in critical infrastructure for development in tourism, mining and energy, agriculture, manufacturing, telecommunications and information technology. This will form the basis for brand new economic projects that will provide thousands of jobs and small business starts."