ONWARD AND UPWARD

Jamaica 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

The World Bank has been a long-time supporter of Jamaica's efforts to stabilize its economy, reduce its debt, and create the conditions for strong and sustainable growth.

Galina Sotirova
BIOGRAPHY
Galina Sotirova joined the World Bank in 1994 and served in key positions across different regions. She started her career in the bank as a Human Development Specialist for Europe and Central Asia. She led the World Bank’s human development program in Ukraine and Belarus before moving to the Africa region, where she served as the Country Program Coordinator for Nigeria and later as Country Manager for Burkina Faso. In 2012, she became the Country Operations Advisor for the Caribbean. Sotirova assumed duties as World Bank Country Manager for Jamaica in July 1, 2015. She holds graduate degrees in international relations, economics, and public policy from the University of Sofia, John Hopkins University Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, and the London School of Economics.

What have been some major highlights of your company's development?

In 2018, we marked 55 years of partnership between Jamaica and the World Bank. It has been a long and productive partnership, during which time we have financed more than 140 projects totaling about USD3 billion and provided policy advice and technical assistance on issues that have been priority for the country for years. The World Bank has made a contribution to the progress made in gaining access to education, improving health services and outcomes, putting in place a safety net for people in poverty, extending infrastructure, addressing the impact of climate change, and promoting private sector development and employment. In recent years, we have been supporting Jamaica's efforts to stabilize the economy, reduce debt, and create the conditions for strong and sustainable private sector led growth. Trends are positive: debt has gone down, and Jamaica is following a sound debt management strategy, growth is picking up—although still lower than we would like—and employment is picking up. Jamaica has been improving its business environment. In 2015 and 2016, it was in the top 10 performers in the world for making the biggest number of policy changes, and in 2018 Jamaica moved closer to the international best practice, although more needs to be done. To strengthen competitiveness and promote growth, Jamaica aims to implement reforms to become one of the top 10 countries for doing business by 2030.

How is the World Bank committed to making the country more natural disaster-resilient?

In the World Bank Caribbean department, we have a 360-degree vision of resilience: resilience includes fiscal and financial, physical, and social resilience. We have been working on all these with Jamaica. Improving physical resilience means having a modern building code and enforcing it—we have been helping Jamaica to develop a modern building code that has already been passed by parliament and needs to be implemented. We have started working with the government to develop adaptable social safety net—a system to swiftly provide assistance to populations that are somewhat above the poverty line but fall into poverty when disaster hits. Jamaica is also among the two countries in the Caribbean that are developing comprehensive disaster risk financing strategies aimed at ensuring fiscal resilience by putting in place the institutional and financial architecture to address the impact of disaster effectively, without jeopardizing fiscal stability and incurring debt. This may include a multi-layered approach to financing disaster risk starting with fiscal buffers, disaster response funds, contingency financing, as well using market transfer mechanisms such as insurance and catastrophic bonds.

What is your outlook for 2019?

Things are looking up. Jamaica continues to maintain macro-stability through fiscal responsibility, which, coupled with reforms aimed at fostering growth, is likely to produce great results. There are risks: external shock risks have to be managed, and resilience needs to be built to tackle external climate and economic shocks.