Time for Peter to give us a fillip: come blow your horn about the economy

Is it really only Thursday? Since Sunday’s JLP special delegates conference, it seems that Jamaica’s political landscape has been a non-stop series of reruns of great TV favourities such as All In The Family, The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, Mission Impossible, all rolled into one. Back in the days when such series were popular, people did not have TiVo, or even reliable video recorders, so that they could get on with other essential things in life such as hand washing, grinding corn on a stone, chopping wood, and hanging out cotton navies, and not miss their favourites episodes. They had to watch or forever be out of every conversation at the well. Now, thankfully, we have both TiVo and cable, so we can choose to delay our pleasure or just forget about it and watch a cooking or shopping channel or good quality soap opera. I feel I need to watch one of those channels trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner that also slices cucumbers. The four days of drama that have been the JLP post-leadership-election have been a bit too much for my poor little constitution–let alone The Constitution of poor little Jamaica. So, Andrew and Audley, and your cast of budding actors, give me a break. I’ve other fish to fry.

For more than a week a team of IMF economists have been poring over numbers and sitting in meetings with Jamaican finance officials. Sadly, for them, their visit came as Restaurant Week was kicking off. If they were lucky, they might have heard about this, but I suspect that they have not had the chance to venture out of their hotel and sample anything directly, like food at the aptly named 689. In a way, that’s good for us because it means that they don’t have to deal with that persistent conundrum of the country that is not growing that seems to be able to show itself in the lifestyle of the rich and successful.

But, because the mission members have been content to grab patties and eat room service meals, we know that Jamaica can adopt a Bolt-ian stance. Word is that the country has passed the quantitative criteria and indicative targets for the second review under the current IMF arrangement. In plain English, Jamaica is still doing well in the early heats. A few more rounds are ahead, but things are looking up for a place on the podium and maybe even the gold. But, hold on to that Stones Ginger wine. The IMF is nothing if not formality, and that means that the final word on this depends on the IMF Executive Board giving its approval; that’s scheduled for December, so will be in time for Christmas. Put back the ginger wine and make sure you have plenty of sorrel, then.Stone_Green_Ginger_Wine

Maybe, it’s all the hype about the JLP, or the Reggae Girlz doing well in the CONCACAF football tournament, or the Sunshine Girlz doing well in Fast 5 netball, or JADCO still trying to ward off WADA, the economic news seems to have a ho-hum feel about it. Surely, Jamaica is not going to sail through this program and get to the end looking like a champion? Is it real or is the country taking performance-enhancing supplements?

I suspect the ho-humming may be because people forgot that the IMF program doesn’t actually create any jobs or ‘let off a money’ on most people. Now, they remember, it’s just about things to which most people cannot relate–fiscal incentives, structural adjustment, regulatory reforms. It’s blah, compared to the prospects of real jobs if the Chinese ever get to start lining up restaurants on the Goat Islands.

Finance Minister Phillips tried his best to sound upbeat–and that is like Beethoven displacing Sibelius in the charts–when he said “Now that the early shoots of economic growth are visible, it’s incumbent on us to nurture them and to extend their growth to the fullest extent possible.” These agricultural analogies have a way of coming up–like shoots–only to sound stilted as the growth falters or some economic shock knocks the country off track. The shoots then begin to wither away under the hot, blazing reality of hard economic times.

But, I am not going to be a nay sayer. I want Jamaica to pass all the IMF tests, with flying colours.

As I say that, I realise something a little odd. All during the weekend, I heard them–for Andrew and Audley. All during the week, I could hear them–for St. George’s, Jamaica College and Excelsior. But, yesterday, I could not hear them during the press conference about the IMF program. Where are the vuvuzelas to herald that we are doing so well?vuvuzela Are we afraid to blow any trumpets because we fear that the perfect pitch will turn into a teeth-jarring screech? I think, we need to stand a bit more confidently on this economic performance thing, man. Before the IMF leaves the island, I urge Dr. Phillips to pull out a vuvuzela and give it a blow.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)