EPOC Press Statement – Quarterly Media Briefing

Kingston, Jamaica – 26 February 2019

The Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) met on February 15, 2019 and reviewed the latest available results for the period ending December 2018.

The fifth formal review mission by the IMF under the
current Precautionary Standby Arrangement (PSBA) is scheduled for the period
February 25 – March 8, 2019. This review mission assesses the performance of
the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) in meeting the targets for the end-December
2018 period, and to discuss the performance to date in meeting the structural
benchmarks and commitments under the programme.

Based on the preliminary results for performance to date
through the end of December 2018, the GOJ is on track to meet the targets for
the Quantitative Performance Criteria and indicative targets for the IMF PSBA,
with the exception of the inflation target which triggers a staff consultation
clause whereby the BOJ will consult with IMF Staff on the outlook for inflation
and the proposed policy response.

For the review period April to December 2018, the Fiscal
Performance continued its positive trend.

Tax
Revenues Outperform Budget

Revenue & Grants of $448.8b for the first nine months
of the fiscal year (April-December) exceeded the budgeted amount of $437.3b
(+2.6%). Tax Revenues of $388.7b outperformed IMF PSBA target of $360b and GOJ
1st Supplementary budget target of $378.1b.

Tax Revenues year over year increased by $35.6b (10.1%)
from $353.1b for the period April through December 2017 to $388.7b for the
comparable period in 2018.

Expenditures
behind Budget by $11.6b

Expenditure for the first nine months of the fiscal year
(April-December) was $11.6b below budget (-2.6%). Of this amount, Recurrent
Expenditure was $11.0b below budget (-2.8%), while Capital Expenditure was
$0.6b below budget (-1.3%).

Capital
Expenditure up 46.6% year over year

Capital Expenditure year over year increased by $14.4b from
$31.0b for April through December 2017, to $45.4b for the comparable period in
2018.This represents a 46.6% increase year over year.

Primary
Balance

As a result of the Revenue and Grants performance and the
under-expenditure for the first nine months of the fiscal year, the Primary
Balance of $107.7b exceeded the $68.0b IMF PSBA programme target and the GOJ’s
$89.0b 1st Supplementary Budget target for April-December 2018.

International
Reserves

Non-Borrowed Reserves as at the end of December 2018 stood
at US$2,522m, significantly exceeding the IMF PBSA Programme Target of US$2.2b,
while Net International Reserves stood at US$3,005m.

Inflation
dips to 2.4% in December 2018; triggers IMF Staff consultation clause

The 12-month point-to-point inflation rate at December 2018
was 2.4%, below Bank of Jamaica’s target of 4.0% to 6.0% and lower than the
same measure at December 2017 (5.2%).

In line with the Governance Process, Bank of Jamaica (BOJ)
will send a report to the Minister of Finance and the Public Service within 60
days on why the target was missed in December and proposed remedial actions, as
deemed necessary.

Foreign
Exchange Market

On 25 February 2019, the value of the Jamaican Dollar
vis-à-vis the US dollar was J$131.02= US$1.00, reflecting an appreciation of
1.90% ($2.54) for the Month to Date. This follows depreciation of 6.56% ($8.38)
for January 2019.

The appreciation in the value of the Jamaica Dollar for the
review period was influenced by: (1) the BOJ injecting liquidity of US$80m
through its B-FXITT flash operations as well as (2) low demand for US dollars
as end users anticipate lower rates.

The BOJ continues to use the transparent B-FXITT mechanism
to sell or buy USD when the market reflects a projected shortage or surplus
respectively. FX interventions are intended to address excess volatility and
disorderly market conditions.

PIOJ
estimated growth of 1.7% for October to December 2018

The PIOJ estimated a 4.2% increase in in the Goods
Producing industry and a 0.8% outturn in the Services sector. Mining and
Quarrying was estimated to have grown by 22.9%, Construction estimated at 3.5%
and Agriculture and Fishing estimated at 2.6%.

Employment
levels continue to increase

As reported by STATIN, the unemployment rate for October
2018 was 8.7%, a 1.8 percentage point decline compared to the rate of 10.5% for
October 2017. The employed Labour force was 1,219,700 which was 14,400 higher
than in October 2017.

BOJ reports that Private Sector Credit through Deposit
Taking Institutions (DTIs) Increases Year over Year.

Lending to the Private Sector by Deposit Taking
Institutions (DTIs) grew by 14.6% at November 2018; an acceleration relative to
the growth of 12.7% at November 2017. Lending to the productive sector by DTIs
reflected annual growth of 17.7% at November 2018 relative to 8.4% for the
corresponding period of 2017.

Inflation
continues decline to 2.3% for January 2019

The CPI declined by 0.2% in January 2019. The point to
point inflation was 2.3% which continues to be below the IMF Precautionary
Standby Arrangement (PSBA) inner band of 3.5% and the BOJ’s target of 4-6%.

BOJ
responds to missed inflation target by lowering policy Interest rates to 1.5%

On February 20, 2019 the Bank of Jamaica announced its
decision to lower its signal interest rate by 25 basis points to 1.50%. This
decision was driven by the continued out-turn of inflation below the BOJ target
of 4-6% and its forecast that inflation over the medium term in the context of
low core inflation “will fall below the target at various points”.

The BOJ’s decision to lower interest rates “is aimed at
increasing the rate of expansion in private sector credit and is not aimed at
influencing the exchange rate.”

BOJ
reduces Cash Reserve Requirement for Deposit Taking Institutions (DTIs)-March
1, 2019

The Cash Reserve Ratio for DTIs is to be reduced effective
March 1, 2019 from 12% to 9%. This reduction will release $16.8b to the DTIs,
which the BOJ states “will improve their ability to provide more credit to
households and businesses at lower rates and on better terms.”

The
Bank of Jamaica committed to further reductions in the cash reserve ratio over
the year

EPOC continues to be supportive of the BOJ’s accommodative
stance as it uses its monetary policy tools to stimulate private credit,
through lower interest rates and lower cash reserve ratios which should lead to
increased domestic demand and strengthening of the Jamaican Economy.

FX
Trading Platform to strengthen Market Infrastructure and Price Transparency

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Nigel Clarke, reiterated a GOJ
commitment under the IMF PBSA Programme for the implementation of a FX Trading
Platform by the end of 2019. This FX Platform will be integrated with the
existing payments and settlements systems and regulations will be issued by
September 2019.

EPOC is of the view that this will lead to greater
transparency and price discovery which could result in reduced volatility and
trading margins which would be a major positive for market participants.

Steady
upward Trajectory in Tax Revenues, Growth projections below 2% for 2019/20

The selected highlights of Fiscal Policy Paper of Budget
Estimates for FY2019/20 Issued February 14, 2019 are as follows:

Tax
Revenues are projected to increase by 7% from $537b in 2018/19 to $576b in
2019/20Capital
Expenditures will see a marginal increase from a projected $68.8b for 2018/19
to $72.1b in 2019/20The
Primary Balance which is projected to close Fiscal Year 2018/19 at $142.1b is
estimated to close the Fiscal Year 2019/20 at $150.9b

Debt
to GDP ratio is projected to fall to 96.4% at the end of the Fiscal Year
2018/19 and is projected to fall to 90.9% at the end of Fiscal Year 2019/20Net
International Reserves (NIR) is projected to close Fiscal Year 2018/19 at
US$2.914b and is estimated to increase to US$3.045b at the end of 2019/20The
inflation for 2019/20 is projected at 4.3%.GDP
growth is projected to be 1.8% for Fiscal Year 2018/19 but is projected to fall
to 1.5% in 2019/20.

Mining and Quarrying is projected to grow by 2% in 2019/20,
which is significantly down from the projected 27% growth for 2018/19 for this
industry.

This baseline forecast for GDP growth for 2019/20 is
impacted negatively by the assumption that production is likely to be disrupted
at the Alpart Plant for a total of 3 months due to the installation of various
pieces of equipment.

Despite the missed inflation target and growth level persisting below the 2% growth levels, the economy despite its continued challenges seems poised for growth in the medium term.

EPOC is of the view that the Economic Programme remains on
track.

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May 2021: Update on the GOJ Economic Reform Programme (ERP)

The EPOC met on May 7, 2021 to review the macro fiscal programme of the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and the monetary performance of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) for the fiscal year 2020/21, and to highlight key projections for FY2021/22.
The following were key highlights noted by EPOC:

GOJ Tax Revenues projected to increase 13% from $505.7B in 2020/21 to $572.5B in 2021/22
Remittances remain strong increasing 34.7% year over year at February 2021 (was US$212.5M for February 2021 compared to US$ 162.8M for February 2020)
Net International Reserves robust at US$3.3B
Debt to GDP projected to fall from 110.1% to 100.7% for 2021/22

Based on the preliminary results for performance to date through to the end of March 2021, the GOJ has met the available Quantitative Performance Targets for the GOJ ERP for end March 2021, with the exception of the Tax Revenues target.
The implementation of the majority of the Priority Actions for the GOJ ERP was delayed relative to the timelines established in November 2019, due, in large part, to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
EPOC will continue to monitor the fiscal and monetary targets set out for the Fiscal year 2021/22.

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As COVID-19 cases spike, risks to economic recovery remain high
The EPOC met on February 5, 2021 to review the macro fiscal programme of the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and the monetary performance of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) for the fiscal year 2020/21. The following were key highlights noted by EPOC:✔ The GOJ tables third Supplementary budget as Tax Revenues projected to fall below previous targets✔ Macro-fiscal risks increase as GDP growth projections weaken✔ Pace of global economic recovery remains uncertain as global demand for vaccines outstrip supply✔ International Reserves remain strong due to higher than expected increase in Remittance Inflows
Based on the performance of the fiscal and monetary indicators, the GOJ and the BOJ are on track to meet the selected quantitative targets under the GOJ Economic Reform Programme (ERP) as at the end of December 2020,with the exception of the Tax Revenues target. The implementation of the majority of the Priority Actions for the GOJ ERP continues to be delayed relative to the timelines established in November 2019, due, in large part, to the impactof the COVID-19 pandemic. The timelines and scope of these priority commitments are to be reviewed.

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December 2020: Update on the GOJ Economic Reform Programme (ERP)

EPOC remains cautiously optimistic as Jamaica hits Fiscal targets and International Reserves remain strong
The EPOC met on December 4, 2020 to review the macro fiscal programme of the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) for the fiscal year 2020/21. The following were key highlights noted by EPOC:

GDP growth projections reduced as global and domestic economic conditions remain uncertain.
Downside risks to macro fiscal projections remain high.
Major strides made towards the establishing of Central Bank Independence and the Fiscal Commission.

 Based on the reports presented by the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Jamaica, the GOJ and the BOJ is on track to meet all quantitative targets under the GOJ Economic Reform Programme (ERP) as at the end of September 2020, with the exception of the Non-borrowed reserves which was not adjusted downwards at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. . However, the implementation of the majority of the Priority Actions for the GOJ ERP continues to be delayed relative to the timelines established in November 2019, due in large part to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the timelines and scope of some of these action items are to be reviewed, the work continues.

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September 2020: Update on the GOJ Economic Reform Programme (ERP)

CHALLENGING PATH TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY
The EPOC met on September 11, 2020 to review the macro fiscal programme of the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) for the fiscal year 2020/21 and over the medium term. EPOC looked in depth at the fiscal and monetary assumptions and actions which underpin Jamaica’s recovery path.
Based on the preliminary performance results, the GOJ is on track to meet the Quantitative Performance Targets for GOJ ERP for end-June 2020, with the exception of the inflation target. However, the implementation of a majority of the Priority Actions for the GOJ ERP has been delayed relative to the timelines established in November 2019, due in large part to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Congratulations Keith Duncan, CD

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