KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves yesterday gave sound bite insights into the most recent report of directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on this country’s economy.
The IMF in its public information notice (PIN) last week said that the Vincentian economy is expected to contract for a fourth consecutive year, by 0.8 per cent.
The statement further lauded the government for some of its policies and initiatives.
But the IMF directors’ report is not available to the public and governments must authorise the IMF to issue the PIN.
“I want to read for you some of the comments – I wouldn’t call the names – from the executive directors of the IMF,” Gonsalves told the 18th annual convention of his Unity Labour Party.
“I am not looking for any praise from the IMF; let me make that plain. I am looking for praise from you. If it comes from them, it’s incidental but because some people love to quote the IMF …” said Gonsalves, who recently described the international body as “schizophrenic”.
“‘The economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is severely affected by a very unfortunate series of disasters. We commend the authorities for their efforts to keep the economy afloat during these very difficult times’,” Gonsalves read from the report.
“Commend means praise, it doesn’t mean condemn. That is a different verb,” he remarked.
Hurricane Tomas last year October and floods and landslides in April, this year, are said to have left $250 million in damage.
“‘Two other directors say: ‘The weak external outlook is hindering the country to recover quickly’,” Gonsalves further quoted the report as saying.
“And that is why we talking about resilience here,” Gonsalves added at the convention, whose theme was “Building with confidence a more resilient nation in challenging time.”
“‘We commend the authorities for their efforts to stick to prudent macroeconomic policies during these difficult economic times’,” Gonsalves further read from the report
“Another two [IMF directors said], ‘Despite this difficult background, we are reassured by the authorities commitment to put the fiscal situation in a sustainable position as illustrated by a medium-term plan aimed at generating significant primary surpluses’,” Gonsalves further said, quoting the report.
Commenting on the IMF’s remarks about his government’s commitment to put the fiscal situation in a sustainable position, Gonsalves said:
“Remember when I told you that we can run a deficit on the current account for one, two, three, four years, so long as I have a medium term programme for consolidation of the fiscal situation, because we have to balance prudence with enterprise…”
He reiterated that the additional EC$4 million allocated for Public Assistance this year contributed to the deficit.
He said that IMF directors also commended the authorities’ efforts “in progressing forward, despite these challenges”.
“You notice the same story is recurring,” Gonsalves commented, as he further quoted the report as saying:
“‘Hence, we commend the authorities for their efforts to diversify the economy and increase competitiveness, in particular through reducing the cost of doing business, investing in education and improving infrastructure.’
“When you hear them talk about the [national] debt, hear what these two [IMF directors] say: ‘We are comforted by the IMF staff assessment that the risk of debt distress remains moderate and welcome the authorities intention to avoid non-concessional financing.’”
Gonsalves said that in this regard his government is “using our instruments of independence and sovereignty to get assistance from [friendly nations]”.