Judana Murphy, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica has scored among the top quarter of countries assessed in terms of overall levels of accountability in early COVID-19 fiscal policy responses.
Jamaica shared this category with 28 other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a global economic shock of unprecedented proportions, caused the Jamaican government to respond with a $25 billion stimulus in March 2020.
The largest stimulus package in the country's history, it included tax benefits and a cash transfer programme for individuals and businesses to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.
The Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) was one of the civil society partners, across 120 countries, that worked with the International Budget Partnership (IBP) to take a closer look at how governments managed their initial COVID-19 fiscal policy responses.
In its report Following the Money (Covid Edition): Transparency and Oversight in the Disbursement of Covid Funds, which was released on Monday, CAPRI said focus was placed on three critical areas of accountability: public access to relevant information, adequate oversight and opportunities for citizen engagement.
CAPRI said the government published sufficient information relevant to the stimulus package and revised fiscal estimates helped the public track how much funds were going to each COVID-related programme.
“Legislative oversight of the stimulus package was relatively strong. As is usually the case in Jamaica, parliament debated the proposed revised budget before voting on it; had at least two weeks to review and discuss the proposed revised budget before holding a vote on it; and held a vote on the proposed revised budget before the package was implemented,” a section of the report read.
CAPRI added that while Jamaica already had a legal framework in place for emergency contracting of services, there has been some scrutiny surrounding the level of adherence.
Meanwhile, CAPRI noted that in the development and execution of Jamaica's COVID-19 policy responses, the participation of citizens was “virtually non-existent, depriving the government of contributions which could greatly improve the effectiveness of their actions”.
Citizen participation was also lacking in countries around the world.
Following a survey of 1,500 residents across 23 deprived communities in Jamaica, CAPRI found that 75 percent of those surveyed did not benefit from the government's CARE Programme and 58 percent of respondents did not apply because they did not know about it.