Shed light on IMF talks

P.J. Patterson (right) and Lissant MItchell of Scotiabank.

KINGSTON — Former Prime Minister P J Patterson, while accepting that “negotiations of this kind cannot take place in public”, has joined those calling on the Government to be more open with the public on negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

“While the corn is growing we must make sure that we are not left in a disarray of uncertainty,” Patterson, Jamaica’s longest serving prime minister, who retired in 2006, told the annual awards banquet of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce at the Golf View Hotel on Saturday night.

“We have to find a way of lifting the current veil of uncertainty about what this agreement forebodes and we have to restore the level of confidence which is essential to take the country forward and the only way we can do it is a steady flow of information to the people of Jamaica. The people have a right to know…,” said Patterson.

Economic analysts, business leaders and the political opposition have strongly criticised the one-year-old Portia Simpson Miller Government for not speaking more openly about ongoing and protracted discussions with the IMF. An IMF loan apart, the multilateral lender’s seal of approval is urgently needed to restore the flow of loans and grant funds from multilateral and other external sources, economic experts say.

Uncertainty surrounding the negotiations is said to be triggering a loss of confidence in the Jamaican economy. Simpson Miller recently took heavy flak for failing to mention the IMF negotiations in a summation of her Government’s first year in office.

However, in a progress report on Saturday, regarding a three-day Cabinet retreat, Simpson Miller told the nation through the Government’s information arm, Jamaica Information Service, that “an update on matters related to aspects of the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund” will be provided today.

The JIS said the cabinet “examined… issues with a view to taking decisions as to the final shape of the upcoming budget, against the background of the Economic Reform Programme and discussions with the International Monetary Fund”.

Patterson told Manchester’s business leaders on Saturday night that the government’s provision of information on the IMF negotiations should be “underpinned by a meaningful process of consultation” with “key stakeholders” including private sector, organised labour, investors, financial houses, the church, NGOs, community organisations, academia, and the media.

This was crucial, he said, because success would not depend on the government alone, but on the contribution of all sectors. Care had to be taken that the situation did not descend to that of a “Tower of Babel” given that everyone “has an opinion”, but the government should so organise itself so as to be able to “pick sense out of nonsense”, Patterson said. (Observer)

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