US pressed IMF to help Jamaica – Lagarde

(Jamaica Gleaner) Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has revealed that Capitol Hill, the seat of political power in America, nudged her to sign off on a programme for Jamaica, and one year later she is proud of the progress being made.

The IMF boss, who is on a two-day working visit to Jamaica, said at a luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, that she was very happy with the country’s performance under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and warned “don’t let electoral process get into the way” of the progress.

“I remember the 24th of December, 2012, the day before Christmas. We had been told about Jamaica. We have been told how difficult the situation was and I was in close contact with (Finance) Minister (Dr Peter) Phillips. But little did I know that there would be international pressure coming from the Hill. I actually welcomed that day, 24th December, a group of Congress women and one man who came unannounced, sat in my office and said to me ‘you have got to help Jamaica,'” said Lagarde.

Her statement was confirmation of whispers that Jamaica had reached out to Washington to help it secure an agreement with the IMF.

‘SUPERB WORK’

The executive board approved the EFF arrangement for four years and a total of SDR (special drawing rights) 615.38 million (about US$948.1 million), the equivalent of 225 per cent of Jamaica’s quota in the IMF on May 1, 2013. The country had been without an IMF agreement for more than a year having missed two quarterly reviews under a previous Stand-by Agreement.

“What you have done personally, under the leadership of your prime minister, is nothing short of astonishing, superb work” said Lagarde.

The measures included a wage freeze for public-sector workers, a debt exchange and the imposition of new taxes which the IMF boss said spread the burden around. Jamaica’s four-year economic programme for 2013/14 through to 2016/17, seeks to avert immediate crisis risks and create the conditions for sustained growth through a significant improvement in the fiscal and debt positions and competitiveness.

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