Photo above is of Former Jamaica Finance Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips.
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr. 5, (CMC) – The main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) says the new Andrew Holness government’s lack of transparency will have a crippling effect on public confidence.
Former finance minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, told reporters that recent statements made by Finance Minister, Audley Shaw, regarding the government’s promise to eliminate income tax for low income earners, were troubling.
“It doesn’t augur well for the standards that we expect from the statements of a minister of finance. The standards of truthfulness and the expectations and understanding about the implications of statements for confidence in the Jamaican authorities and for economic confidence in the economy generally,” Phillips said.
Last week, Shaw, addressing the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) Chairman’s Club Breakfast, said the government had planned to use funds, collected from the gas tax, to partially fund the tax break.
“You will recall, for instance, that we had suggested that part of the payback of the J$1.5 million tax break would be the use of the tax on fuel.
“That was supposed to be a special fund that was set aside…could not be touched. Now that we are at the National Hero’s circle, among other things, we have found that…it is already accounted for in the Consolidated Fund,” Shaw said.
Under the plan, persons, earning J$1.5 million or less, would not have to pay income tax. The government had planned to implement the plan on April 1.
But Shaw told the private sector group that the government intends to keep its promise to the electorate.
“We are assessing a number of options and the Cabinet retreat will complete that process, this week, to mitigate the fiscal impact of this measure, and we remain confident that it can be accommodated within the context of broader tax reform,” Shaw said.
However, verbatim reports from Parliament indicate that Shaw had been informed about this, late last year, by Phillips.
Phillips told reporters that Shaw’s comments have implications for public confidence and that, as a government minister, he must be circumspect in language and transparent and accurate in action.
Phillips has also taken the government, which came to power following the February 25 general elections, to task for being silent on its promise to increase the minimum wage.
He said, “Something should be said to the country well before the budget debate in May, that will remove their doubts within the electorate about their intention, with regards to this plan.”
“I think the uncertainty that arises, because of this failure to communicate, will not assist the building of confidence,” he added.