November 30, 2007
Prime Minister: IMF doesn’t run SVG

The Opposition is being accused of trying to throw smoke in people’s eyes, to avert the glowing, overwhelmingly favourable report that this country has received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).{{more}}

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves expressed his pleasure that a an IMF report, released on November 8, following Article IV consultations with this country, stated that this country’s economy has strengthened significantly in recent years.

The report suggested that growth will remain strong for this year, at just over 6.5 percent.

Reduced unemployment was also predicted, and the introduction of VAT got the thumbs up.

However, the detailed IMF report for 2006, which was not released until this month, spoke of concerns about fiscal deterioration, and the rising public sector debt.

The IMF suggested in that report that the Government cut public sector jobs, because of the fear that debt serving will expand to over 100% of the Gross Domestic Product by the end of the decade.

On several radio programmes and in some opposition quarters, the Government has been accused of speaking only of the glowing report, deliberately leaving out the negatives.

This is not so says the Prime Minister.

Responding to a question raised by SEARCHLIGHT at a press conference earlier this week, Dr Gonsalves charged the opposition with mischief making.

“This concluding statement for this year is such an overwhelmingly favourable one that the opposition wants to duck that and take us back to last year,” Dr Gonsalves said.

He explained that the 2006 report should have been out a long time ago, and was only released late because of a mix up in communication with the IMF.

Explaining the procedure in dealing with the IMF, the Prime Minister said that following a consultation they (the IMF) issue a concluding statement, which is followed by another, which is a little more detailed than the concluding statement. Then the full report is issued and placed on the IMF’s website.

He said that the problem is that the 2006 final report should not have been issued so late, which is why it seemed to clash with the 2007 concluding statement.

Dr Gonsalves nevertheless explained that while he is pleased with what the IMF said in the 2007 concluding statement, and saw what they recommended in 2006, he is not running the country based on the IMF.

“The IMF can always say what they want, and suggest what they want. IMF doesn’t run St Vincent and the Grenadines. I have made that point repeatedly,” Dr Gonsalves said.

He said that it is a customary thing for the IMF to suggest cutting of jobs, freezing of wages, no borrowing, and the cutting of public spending.

Dr Gonsalves, however, stressed that while he listens to all views, including those of the IMF, at the end of the day, he (Dr Gonsalves) is running the country, and has to do what is best.

He noted that based on his budget projections, including the hiring of a further 100 police officers, and the raising of public servants’ salaries, he is doing exactly opposite to what the IMF suggested in 2006.

“Rubbish,” is how he described fears that public service jobs may be cut.