KINGSTON –– Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness warned yesterday that if the Government failed to meet its $12 billion tax compliance target in 2015/2016, there was the likelihood of another tax package to fill the gap.
“. . . Don’t be surprised if you wake up one morning and find that the minister of finance drops an additional $12 billion in taxes,” he told the House of Representatives in his contribution to the 2015/2016 budget debate.
“He [minister of finance] is like that; the minister doesn’t want to see you have any spending money in your pocket. As soon as we were getting a little break with the grudgingly reduced gas prices, the minister has grudgefully taken away the little relief,” said Holness.
Holness said that while taxes were inevitable, Jamaica had reached its taxable limit. “The bucket bottom has dropped out. Going down the road of more taxation is an anti-growth strategy,” he stated.
According to the opposition leader, it should be clear by now, even to those who refuse to see, that a People’s National Party government knows nothing about how to grow the economy.
“Mr Speaker, the impoverishment of our people has got worse since 2012. People are no longer talking about oxtail and curried goat. As a matter of fact, chicken back is now priced way above the means of many Jamaicans. What many are forced to buy these days is ‘fish back’,” he stated.
“We in the Jamaica Labour Party know how to put plans in place to facilitate growth. The Labour Party is the growth party; what this government knows how to do is to tax Jamaicans. This government does not have a growth plan; it has a tax plan,” he said, as the previously sedate debate started to descend into some heated exchanges between government and opposition members.
The opposition leader said that unless the government could get the economy growing at five per cent and upwards, on a sustained basis, the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would continue to cause Jamaicans “unbearable pain and suffering”.
He attributed the increase in poverty since 2011, as recorded in the most recent edition of the Jamaica Survey Of Living Conditions, to government’s misguided policies.
“What we know from being on the ground is that it is not working for the vast majority of Jamaicans,” he said.
“We have been to the markets and corner shops, we have been to the hospitals, we have been to the churches, we have been on the buses. We have been all over the island and the universal cry of the people is this is not working,” he said.
As the noise rang out in the chamber, Holness continued his onslaught stating that while it was a good thing to pass the IMF test, the government would also need to pass the growth test.
“A wise man once said ‘that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle’. The minister of finance is standing in the tax bucket and he is pulling up the bucket by the handles and he is showing the people, ‘See I am lifting the bucket, I am passing the IMF test’. What he does not understand is that the tax bucket bottom dropped out,” he said.