By Tameka Gordon Despite an anticipated eight per cent decline in the local economy for the first three months of 2021, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has said that its projections are in line with a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast of 1.5 per cent growth this year. The nations planning agency says that it expects significant growth for April to June the first quarter of the financial year. The IMFs prediction, noted in the recently published World Economic Outlook, references the calendar year, while the PIOJs forecast of four to six per cent growth covers the fiscal year which began on April 1. April to June 2021 will have the most significant growth because of what was happening last year. That would have been the period with the most stringent measures. So, it will be a very low base for the comparison, said PIOJ Director General Dr Wayne Henry. All four quarters of this fiscal year, ending March 2022, will have growth just not as strong, Henry said, adding that overall, the PIOJ has observed growth in the region that we have projected for the fiscal year. Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner regarding the projections, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke reiterated the PIOJs assertions, noting that the slight difference in measurement periods leads to the seemingly sizeable variance due to the economic impact of the pandemic. He said that while the Government expects significant economic contraction in January to March 2021, the following quarters would bring an expansion in the economy, subject to the evolution of health conditions. While the outlook from both the IMF and the PIOJ has inspired hope for Jamaicas financial horizon, businesses and consumers remain cautiously optimistic. Pollster Don Anderson, speaking ahead of next weeks planned media briefing on the recent survey of business and consumer confidence, told The Sunday Gleaner that while business and consumer confidence has fallen off in the last few months, a testing of the pulse shows a certain level of optimism among local businesses. It may not be that great, but there is optimism that things will rebound. Businesses are beginning to say, Maybe in the next three years or so, things will rebound and may even be booming, Anderson said, hinting that consumer confidence seems a more hard-fought case. The projections for growth have, however, failed to inspire confidence in the members of the National Consumers League (NCL). Founding member and former head of the NCL, Joyce Campbell, says the global pandemic has placed consumers in such a vulnerable position that it is hard to be optimistic. There are so many things happening, even with our regional trade and we are going into a hurricane season, so we dont know what will happen, Campbell said. Speaking to the plans for his company over the medium to long term, principal of Adam and Eve Day Spa, Garth Walker, says the entity which depends heavily on foot traffic and which, like many other local businesses, has been negatively impacted by the local pandemic containment measures, especially after making significant investments in 2019 to set up its new location is holding off any immediate plans for further investments.