EPOC to maintain vigilant monitoring post-IMF period


EPOC to maintain vigilant monitoring post-IMF period

Observer Business Writer

Sunday, August 25, 2019

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Fresh from being given an indefinite extension, the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) is promising to be just as vigilant in its oversight of the government's economic reform programme in the post-International Monetary Fund (IMF) period.

The current three-year Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (PSBA) with the IMF comes to an end in November, and the Government on Thursday inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for EPOC to continue its monitoring role beyond the IMF programme.

The work of EPOC was supposed to have come to an end in November when Jamaica wraps up its PSBA with the IMF but the independent body of business professionals has been given the mandate to continue working until the Fiscal Council is established and the institutional framework is put in place for the independence of the Central Bank over monetary affairs.

EPOC was established in 2013 to monitor the implementation of Jamaica's economic reform measures under its agreement with the IMF.

Co-chair of EPOC, Keith Duncan promised that it will be business as usual in the post-IMF period, as the entity will be equally vigilant in its monitoring role.

Speaking at Thursday's signing of the MOU extending the life of EPOC, Duncan promised to keep the public informed on the government's economic reform programme, declaring, “Where we have concerns with the programme, we will bring it to the attention of the public.”

According to the EPOC co-chair, “We also believe that it is extremely important that civil society has a voice in Jamaica's economic programme that we are plugged in, that we understand where we are in this programme, what our targets are, where are we going as a country, as we move towards economic independence,” Duncan reasoned.

He made the point that EPOC is extremely focused on Jamaica achieving its fiscal rules such as its 60 per cent debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, which Jamaica would be able to get to by 2025/2026.

“We can only imagine the kind of resources that would be freed up for investment in the wider Jamaica, in our people, in our infrastructure when this happens,” Duncan posited. He emphasised that Jamaica is already seeing the benefits of the Government's fiscal responsibility programme.

He expressed confidence that Jamaica will continue along this path of fiscal discipline.

EPOC comprises 11 individuals from the private and public sectors and civil society. They receive and assess information from the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) to track the progress of the targets under the PSBA, which was signed in 2016.

EPOC monitors the fiscal, monetary, and financial sector indicators, which are under the standby agreement, as the GOJ aims to preserve macroeconomic stability achieved under the previous agreement, with a renewed focus on growth and job creation, while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

The committee meets quarterly for monitoring based on the quarterly targets and the semi-annual IMF reviews. There are also monthly meetings of a technical subcommittee to conduct ongoing analysis of the PSBA.

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