KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 23, 2017 (CMC) – Members of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP), walked out of Parliament, yesterday, to protest against the government’s refusal to adjust the J$13.5 billion tax package.
The opposition parliamentarians, who chanted “roll it back, roll it back”, left as Finance Minister Audley Shaw closed the 2017/2018 debate.
“We walked out in protest as we want a Jamaica that works for all; not just prosperity for a few,” PNP Jamaica said in a tweet, shortly after leaving the sitting.
“You can walk out of the house, but you can’t walk out on the people of Jamaica,” Shaw countered.
However, the 30 government MPs approved the package, with Shaw saying that it is “cast within a framework of fiscal responsibility”.
Meanwhile, during a hastily called press conference, the PNP’s spokesman on Finance, Dr. Peter Phillips, said the government showed no willingness to make any adjustments, despite the widespread cries and appeals from Jamaicans for the tax measures to be rescinded.
“It’s a bad budget; it damages the livelihood of the people and it ought not to pass without us making our voices heard,” he said.
According to Phillips, the opposition will consult with Jamaicans to see what actions they want to take “in conjunction with us”.
The government has been faced with mounting criticism, following the presentation of its tax package.
But Shaw says the package was strategically designed and the decisions were not taken lightly.
A raft of tax increases were announced as the government seeks to finance the budget.
The budget is an almost 20 percent increase over the current year’s, moving from J$592.7 billion to $710 billion when it was tabled in February.
In closing the budget debate, Shaw said, “We believe that it is a growth-inducing budget. We believe that it is a budget that allows for opportunity and hope for the people of Jamaica.”