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Letter of the Day | The World Bank’s new 22 impact measurement tool can inspire

Published:Thursday | April 18, 2024 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

On April 9 on the eve of its 15th Spring Meetings in Washington, the World Bank released a new impact measurement tool aimed at tracking its vision of ending poverty on a sustainable planet. This tool assesses various indicators, including access to nutritious food, digital engagement, and sustainability of debt rehabilitation, among others. For Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean alike, we must interrogate this move critically, for example, what does it mean for our own context?

Jamaica has made remarkable progress in macroeconomic stability, particularly with successful debt-rehabilitation efforts highlighted by the IMF and Financial Times. Over the past decade, our debt-to-GDP ratio has significantly decreased from 140 per cent to around 75 per cent and is projected to further decrease to the 60s by 2025. Alongside this, our credit rating has improved notably, with Fitch recently upgrading Jamaica’s credit rating from BB- to BB. Undeniably, these are remarkable achievements for any government and its people and Jamaicans should be proud.

However, achieving this stability has come at a cost. Jamaicans have endured austerity measures to maintain fiscal discipline, and economic growth, though steady, remains below five per cent. The challenge then lies in ensuring that growth benefits those who need it most in our society.

A challenge which Prime Minister Holness has admitted.

The Jamaican people have lauded the efforts of both administrations in tackling the country’s debt reduction and macroeconomic turnaround even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Yet, more recently we have seen increased unease among Jamaicans at various levels of the society.

As such, it is clear that Jamaica’s current macroeconomic metrics are simply insufficient. Likewise, targeted redistributive policies might also be insufficient tackling poverty and inequality due to the changing dynamics, especially if the local policy and economic landscape remain the same. Said another way, trickle-down economics is not working for the people, but we can change this.

REFRAME EXISTING OPPORTUNITIES

This new impact measurement can inspire our own ideas of success and policy impact locally.

Jamaica can look at new policies that reframe existing opportunities. For example, there are untapped opportunities existing in climate change adaptation and energy transformation within our country. By building out the local market infrastructure for renewable energy and recycling industries will not only provide new jobs, but positively impact the pockets of Jamaicans who pay the second highest figure for energy in the region. Similarly, human capital investment could be improved, local schools are desperately in need of upgrades and support. Implement a local school meal programme in schools, ensuring that all students attending these institutions are motivated to take part in their education and reduce the heightened social decadence that we’ve seen emerge in schools since the COVID-19 pandemic. Through other effective incentives, risk mitigation, conditionalities and regulations the government can also work with the private sector to not only spark innovation, job creation and growth that actively contribute to national development strategies – where business models are inherently sustainable and inclusive beyond our current understanding and execution of ESGs. Importantly, building mutualistic relationships and analysing the impact of the economy on people’s lives and the environment. We can do it with the government leading.

We have the opportunity to drive positive change through effective policy design, implementation, and partnerships. Let’s embrace this opportunity to build a more prosperous and equitable Jamaica.

KIMBERLY ROACH

Kimberlyoroach@gmail.com