Holness Says Jamaica’s Infrastructure Development to Drive GDP

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said his government’s strategy is to emphasize public-private ventures to drive the $13 billion economy’s expansion and “not to depend on public spending for growth.”

“We have been working very closely with the Chinese, and with European and U.S. companies,” Holness, 39, said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg Television. “Investment in roads, housing, water, that will drive our growth primarily.”

Holness, a former education minister, took office last month while vowing to implement tax reforms and reduce government spending to “gradually” lower the national debt, which currently equals 128 percent of Jamaica’s gross domestic product. The prime minister yesterday said that Jamaica has finally gained “alignment” on inflation and interest rates following a 2010 debt exchange devised by the International Monetary Fund that restructured 91 percent of local bonds.

Jamaica swapped $7.8 billion of local bonds for securities with longer maturities and lower interest rates last year as the country’s debt burden threatened to stall growth in the island nation of 2.8 million people.

The accord paved the way for Moody’s Investors Service to raise Jamaica’s credit rating and the IMF to approve a 27-month, $1.27 billion stand-by credit.

Moody’s Investors Service on March 3 raised Jamaica’s long-term sovereign debt rating one level to B3, which is six levels below investment grade, up from Caa1.

“Managing the national debt in Jamaica is my priority,” Holness said yesterday.

Tourism, Other Markets

Holness also spoke of investment opportunities resulting from the development of a regulatory framework for casino gaming licenses.

While Jamaica isn’t seeking to become a “gaming destination,” Holness said that it was “a part of the market we could develop.” In 2010, Jamaica attracted 2 million tourists from the U.S., Jamaica’s biggest trading partner.

Holness was sworn in as prime minister in October after Bruce Golding resigned following criticism of the arrest and extradition of accused drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who was handed over to U.S. authorities last year.

Holness said no decision had yet been made about calling an election before the October 2012 deadline.

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