Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, has issued a sombre warning that the country could be heading in the wrong direction, even as it prepares to enter into a new deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Mr. Golding is concerned that it appears to be business as usual as far as government policies and plans are concerned, and this, he believes, could leave the country still struggling to get on a growth path.
In a rare public appearance since stepping down as Prime Minister 18 months ago, Mr. Golding on Thursday night addressed an awards ceremony of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC).
He used his address to give a word of advice to the Simpson Miller administration; that it will have to act decisively to take Jamaica out of its deepening economic crisis.
“What I am absolutely clear about is that the actions enunciated so far will not put us on a path to economic growth. They may meet the conditions embodied in the IMF agreement, but even if it won’t be business as usual, it will be merely business as it used to be before we got to the edge of the cliff; not business as it needs to be to sustain hope, stimulate investment, create jobs and promote growth,” argued Mr. Golding.
The former Prime Minister expressed the view that not enough is being done to curb expenditure. He also pointed to areas in the public sector which still need to be trimmed, failing which he said Jamaica will be left in a parlous state.
“It is an illusion of compassion, an illusion of compassion for us to maintain hundreds of government departments and agencies when there is no money to fund the work that those agencies and departments are to do. So, for no fault of their own, they are sitting down basically idle, because all we can pay are the salaries and the utilities because we are not able to fund the programmes, the work that they are supposed to do."
Mr. Golding also had strong words for the Government's handling of tax reforms, accusing the administration of pushing aside and not implementing some of the critical proposals presented nearly two years ago.
“These were proposals designed, broadly speaking, to broaden the tax net and reduce the tax rate. They have been so adulterated that what is being implemented now is a mere shadow of what was originally conceived. The pension reform proposals which were also taken to Parliament in 2011, am just being told have being put off for another three years. The cost of government pension doubled in the last five years, and are likely to double again in the next three years,” he said.