The government’s national consultation on the economy got underway Tuesday, however the Opposition Labour Party says with government still withholding the 2018 IMF surveillance report on the economy, the exercise is futile without that independent assessment.
In a statement issued Monday, The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party continued to insist that the failure by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Timothy Harris to release the IMF Country Report “robs all citizens and stakeholders, such as our business, investment and development partners, from critical information about the health of the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as opportunities for investment.”
Under Article IV of its Articles of Agreement, the IMF has a mandate to exercise surveillance over the economic, financial and exchange rate policies of its members in order to ensure the effective operation of the international monetary system. The IMF’s appraisal of such policies involves a comprehensive analysis of the general economic situation and policy strategy of each member country where IMF economists visit the member country, usually once a year, to collect and analyze data and hold discussions with government and central bank officials. Upon its return, the staff submits a report to the IMF’s Executive Board for discussion. The Board’s views are subsequently summarized and transmitted to the country authorities.
On September 14, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund concluded the consideration of the Article IV consultation with St. Kitts and Nevis, however it reported “The authorities have not consented to publication of the staff report and the related press release.”
That was the first time since becoming a member in 1984 that the St. Kitts and Nevis Government had not given permission for the IMF to publish said report.
According to the Opposition, refusing to allow the IMF to publish the report of St. Kitts and Nevis flies in the face of the democratic tenets of transparency and accountability that the country stands for. The Labour Party questioned the motive behind the move to suppress the IMF report and renewed its call for Prime Minister Harris to release it.
“We in the Parliamentary Opposition join with the people of St. Kitts and Nevis in highlighting the hypocrisy and futility of any national consultations on the economy where such a critical assessment about our economy is being hidden. It appears that the only story about the economy that the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance wants to be told is the one that he conjures himself, where facts and figures are manipulated to present a rosier picture about the economy than the present reality in order to score political points.
The present posture of the Prime Minister has raised suspicions about the precise nature of the information that the Prime Minister is hiding and therefore, calls into question the very credibility of whatever information and data that the Ministry of Finance hopes to present at the consultations on the economy. In our view, for as long as the Prime Minister refuses to release the 2018 IMF Country Surveillance Report and prevent the IMF from conducting its regular Article IV consultations, any national consultation on the economy will be considered pointless and illegitimate.”
The Prime Minister has repeatedly defended his decision not to release the IMF report, saying through his Permanent Secretary in Finance that the government has the option to publish or not to publish and it had exercised that right.
While Prime Minister Harris has not said what issues he took with the IMF assessment why he refuses to have it published, at a meeting with nationals in Miami last week he suggested that the IMF had given the government advice that was not in the best interest of the citizens of the federation.
“Never again will Kittitians and Nevisians be assaulted by having economic policies being dictated by outside. We are sensible people. The IMF has none smarter than any of us. The same schools they went to we went to; I went to four universities in Canada- the same books they read, I read them too.
“So when I hear them say ‘wha in de IMF Report, wha in de IMF Report?’- what report the IMF has that we don’t have? The IMF is an institution and all it can do is give you advice and like every advice, whether from lawyer or doctor you must be sufficiently involved to make a judgment whether that advice is the best advice for you. So the IMF gives an advice, we have to have common sense to say ‘we gone work with that or that will not work here’- maybe it will work with Douglas but under Team Unity administration we put the people first.”