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Lambert Brown paints Shaw as hypocrite over dollar slide

Published:Friday | October 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Lambert Brown used yesterday's meeting of the Senate to rip into Finance and the Public Service Minister Audley Shaw, painting him as a hypocrite over the continued depreciation in the value of the Jamaican dollar.

The Jamaican dollar has moved from J$120.37 for US$1 in January to J$128.73 for US$1 on Thursday.

On Thursday, Alejandro Werner, director of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) western hemisphere department, argued that the depreciation is good as it has brought the Jamaican dollar where the economy can compete against other countries like Mexico, where the rate of depreciation has been even greater.

However, opposition senators were not pleased on Friday and questioned Shaw's past rhetoric, with Brown reading into the recorded excerpts from speeches Shaw made in the past four years denouncing the depreciation, which was built into the IMF agreement.




"Public-sector workers who have been on a wage freeze for the past five years had a major protection in the first two years when the exchange rate remained stable, thereby keeping prices stable. But in the last three years, this Government broke the social contract with public-sector workers by presiding over the most aggressive devaluation of the Jamaican dollar [since the 1990s]," Brown read from Shaw's 2015 Budget presentation as then opposition spokesman on finance.

"I cannot understand how the Government has not yet addressed, that in that period of six to seven months, the dollar has moved from $121 to $129 rushing towards $130. That movement amounts to a dollar-per-month slide in the Jamaican dollar under the leadership of the man who loves to boast about dollar wine and the dollar slide," Brown continued.

In February, before the general election, Shaw argued that "the dollar slide, den it wine, and den all a we a get a dollar grind from Peter Phillips (then finance minister) and the People's National Party (PNP)." It was a criticism Shaw often repeated during his time in opposition.

The Government side hit back with Deputy Senate President Aubyn Hill, noting that the Jamaican dollar lost 40 per cent of its value in three years under the PNP administration.

Meanwhile, Mark Golding, the leader of opposition business, noted that there is a need to stem the depreciation as part of efforts to ensure Jamaicans have confidence in their currency.

The senators were contributing to the debate on a bill to amend the Financial Administration and Audit Act that pushed back the deadline to March 31, 2019 for the achievement of the target of reducing public-sector wages by nine per cent or less of gross domestic product.

The bill, which also sought to bring financial reporting by public bodies up to international standards, was approved.