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Jamaica’s Finance Minister Optimistic About Island’s Further Economic Growth

Jamaica's Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke. Photo credit: Adrian Walker/JIS.

Jamaica’s Finance Minister Optimistic About Island’s Further Economic Growth

KINGSTON, Jamaica, January 3, 2020 (CMC) – The Jamaica government says despite economic shocks in the third quarter of last year, the local economy has shown signs of expansion.

Finance and Public Service Minister, Dr. Nigel Clarke, says the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reported, earlier this week, that the local economy grew, in the June – September quarter of 2019, by 0.6 percent over the corresponding period, last year.

“Modest economic expansion therefore, continues despite the closure of the JISCO/Alpart plant in the September 2019 quarter and the corresponding 17.6 percent decline in output in the important bauxite/alumina sector, as a result,” Clarke disclosed.

He noted that news of the JISCO closure has been in the public domain for months and the anticipated economic impact has, most probably, been priced in.

“The closure of JISCO was expected to impact growth in the third quarter of 2019 and is expected to impact the fourth quarter of 2019, as well. However, the fact that the economy still expanded, overall, despite a decline of nearly 18 percent in the critical alumina sector, as a result of the JISCO/Alpart closure, is a credit to the improving economic resilience of the Jamaican economy.”

Clarke said that the US-China trade tensions and lower global growth have led to declines in the prices of many commodities, including alumina, iron ore, soybeans and copper.

“As a result, growth in Latin America and the Caribbean for 2019 is forecasted, by the IMF, to average only 0.2 percent. Though Jamaica is affected by the same external shocks, our 2019 growth is ahead of the Latin American and Caribbean average. It may not be much comfort, but this context is nevertheless important,” he said.

The authorities here have said that growth in the Jamaican economy in the third quarter of 2019 now makes it, 19 consecutive quarters of economic growth, the longest unbroken stretch of economic growth since Jamaica started measuring growth quarterly, in 1997. The previous longest unbroken period of consecutive quarterly economic growth was only 9 quarters.

Clarke said that for the new financial year, there is full expectation that economic growth will return to the previous trajectory, prior to the JISCO/Alpart closure.

“The projection is for economic growth for the 2020/21 financial year to return to levels above one percent. The government will continue to use all levers at our disposal to elevate levels of growth, beyond this, across the medium term,” Clarke added.

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