Jamaica: Sandy won’t affect IMF austerity plan

The tropical storm Sandy, now a Category 1 hurricane, hit eastern Jamaica directly on Oct. 24, with the eye making landfall on the southeast coast around 2 pm. One person was killed when a boulder rolled over a house in St. Andrew parish, which includes Kingston, and dozens of people lost their homes in the eastern parishes: St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary. There was damage to crops and to public infrastructure. Local Government Minister Noel Arscott accompanied Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in an aerial tour of the area on Oct. 25. “Looking from the air, you could see the entire destruction of the banana crops. Not so much for coconuts, but cash crops and banana plantations have been hit severely,” he told reporters. (The Gleaner, Jamaica, Oct. 25, Oct. 26)

Preliminary estimates of the damage came to almost $5 billion, and on Oct. 24 Prime Minister Simpson Miller expressed her hope that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would take Jamaica’s losses into consideration in ongoing negotiations for a new loan to the country. But on Oct. 30 Finance Minister Peter Phillips said the lending institution would not relax its demand for austerity measures. Funds for dealing with hurricane damage will have to come from grants and reallocation within the government’s budget, he said. (The Gleaner, Oct. 31)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 4.