POWER PLAYERS: Lagarde and Simpson-Miller following their meeting in Kingston on Friday.
Perhaps the most significant morsel we can draw from IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde's weekend visit to Jamaica is her pronouncement that while the country's ultimate legacy on the economic front is up to us — and the historians — signs suggest we have been responding courageously to the enormous challenges. In other words, we've been doing our homework and with commendable results.
"The economic outlook is improving. Compared to a year ago, growth has picked up, unemployment has declined, inflation has been brought under control, the current account deficit has shown an ongoing improvement and the reserves are starting to recover," Lagarde said on Friday, following a meeting with government officials in Kingston.
Still, the highlight of Lagarde's brief message for many was her mention of Jamaica's IMF-backed economic reform programme, straddling a four-year nearly US$950-million Extended Fund Facility, being off to "a very strong start." It's an encouraging endorsement that comes as a cautiously optimistic corrective to the doom and the gloom. "Jamaica has the IMF's full support," Lagarde assures. "We stand ready to help in any way we can. But, of course, it is up to you. Jamaicans with the public and private sector working in close harmony to build a bright future for this beautiful country."
And no one has expressed deeper commitment to harmonious economic transformation in the country than government leader PM Portia Simpson-Miller, who maintains that growth stimulation and job creation are her administration's top priorities moving forward. "We recognize and appreciate that the progress and recovery already being experienced still need considerable care, nurturing and support from all segments of the Jamaican society," Simpson-Miller said on Friday.
Whether Miss Lagarde's brief Jamaican sojourn will inspire any meaningful turn-around to speak of remains to be seen, but the significance of her presence in the Caribbean, seemingly genuine interest in Jamaica's well-being and her optimism about our future growth aren't lost on Sista P. "Lagarde's visit signifies the Fund's acknowledgement and endorsement of the considerable progress which has been realized in the first year of Jamaica's economic transformation programme — a programme aimed at reversing the country's history of low growth and high debt," the PM said. "Jamaica thanks Madame Lagarde and her team for the policy advice, technical assistance and financial support which have proved valuable in continuing our quest for economic prosperity."