Editorial

Jamaica shares Finance Minister Audley Shaw's pride

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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It might have been mere coincidence, but over the National Heroes' weekend, when Jamaica was celebrating its best sons and daughters, Minister of Finance and Public Service Audley Shaw was notching up another honour for himself and his country in Washington, DC.

Mr Shaw took home the Finance Minister of the Year for the Caribbean 2016 Award from GlobalMarkets Newspaper at its prestigious GlobalMarkets annual awards reception at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

GlobalMarkets, formerly Emerging Markets, is the newspaper of record at the annual meetings of the major multilateral institutions.

Minister Shaw, among 15 other finance ministers and governors of banks who were awarded, received his accolade for “beating expectations and being focused on growth and stability”.

“The results of Jamaica's economic performance are very impressive. The fiscal performance stands out and the new Administration has run a large primary surplus,” said GlobalMarkets Managing Director John Orchard.

Mr Orchard added that Minister Shaw, though he had a tough mandate, had inherited the timeless task of pushing through the restoration of economic reform launched by the previous Administration and necessitated by the country's debt-to-GDP ratio.

In a sense, Mr Orchard was not telling us in Jamaica anything we did not already know about Mr Shaw's performance. But, as they say, reward sweetens labour and the award would have come as icing on the cake for a man who can certainly lay credible claim to being Jamaica's best finance minister.

“His focus on cutting debt with an aggressive programme of consolidation, including overhauling the tax system and jettisoning some 40 per cent of state-owned companies, and to top it off, he is carrying a five per cent GDP growth rate within four years,” Mr Orchard noted.

Mr Shaw, in accepting the award, rightly saw it as recognition of the hard work and sacrifice of the Jamaican people and “an affirmation that our economy is now firmly on a path to growth and wealth creation”.

The only surprise to us is that Mr Shaw had not received such an award before, given his phenomenal performance in his first term — 2007 - 2012 — when he kept the Jamaican economy afloat during the most turbulent period of the global economic crisis.

He will forever be remembered for breaking the self-perpetuating cycle of exorbitant interest rates on domestic national debt, ignoring pessimistic claims that it was not possible to access lower interest rates by moving away from the 10 and 11 per cent money being previously borrowed on the international markets.

Under his stewardship also, the Bank of Jamaica's benchmark interest rate moved from 12 per cent to a 25-year low of 6.25 per cent. His strident advocacy and stellar campaign for lower interest rates removed the obstacles that had stifled investments, consumption and business activity generally in the country for over 15 years before that.

The exchange rate remained stable at J$86 to US$1 for over two years during the global economic recession; the inflation rate dropped to six per cent; over US$2.8 billion in gross reserves was left at the central bank; and the economy grew 1.7 per cent for calendar year 2011.

The award is Mr Shaw's pride as much as it is Jamaica's.

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