FINANCE Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has again defended the Government's stewardship o f the economy since 2016, pointing to a 40 per cent drop in the poverty rate between 2015 and 2018 — the lowest in 10 years.
Dr Clarke told the House of Representatives Tuesday that this is also the country's third-lowest poverty rate in 25 years, and that all economic variables were on track prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[The year] 2018 marked the first time that economic output exceeds the pre-recession peak and represents the highest level of per capita production in Jamaica's history to date,” Clarke said, noting that the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) registered a rate of 9.2 per cent, other urban centres 12 per cent, and rural areas a poverty rate of 15 per cent.
He said the main economic factor accounting for this decline in poverty is GDP growth rate of 1.9 per cent in 2018, but noted that there was not enough data to identify all the factors which assisted with the drop in poverty rates for that year.
Opposition spokesman on finance Mark Golding said his side welcomed the decline in the poverty rate but argued that, “it is a complete fabrication to say all of Jamaica's economic variables were moving in the right direction prior to COVID-19, that is simply not the case... Those results [from 2018] are not what matters to the Jamaican people now.