Opposition Leader and Independent Member of Parliament for St Michael West, Bishop Joseph Atherley, is giving Government six on a scale of one to ten for its performance during its first five months in office.
Atherley, told a press conference on Tuesday that the Government had “managed the optics very well.”
“I think that in terms of public relations they have done relatively well. I can’t honestly say to anybody that I would oppose them raising the pay of public servants or increasing pensioners’ assistance,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said he had problems with the level of the fuel tax which came into effect on July 1 this year to replace the road tax.
“I knew that the party was going to be making that shift …road tax to fuel charge, and I knew why…to help with the certainty of collections; to ease people from the burden of one-time lump sum payments, but I did not anticipate the level of the imposition would be 40 cents. When I heard 40 cents, that suggested to me that some people can end up paying more by going that route than if they paid the road tax,” the Opposition Leader said.
He recalled being stopped by taxi drivers and public service vehicle (PSV) operators who complained of having to pay more in fuel than road tax.
“The $1.50 per day as a garbage sewage charge attached to the water bill, to all intents and purposes becomes an increase of the water bill. The way it is to be applied, that is, that the garbage and sewage tax comes out first, then what is left, if any, the water people can take their due, is fraught with problems,” Atherley stated.
But Bishop Atherley said he supported the health contribution on the basis that the money would help the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), which has been suffering from a shortage of financing for some time now.
“You can’t complain against the health contribution per se. But what I have problems with is that you say you are not putting it into the Consolidated Fund, you’re putting it straight into National Insurance. The reason for that…monies have gone into the Consolidated Fund previously intended for a specific purpose only to end up not being used for that purpose,” said the Independent MP.
Bishop Atherley said he also did not support the way in which the debt exchange offer was carried out as pensioners were greatly disadvantaged.
“I believe that their plight should have been looked at up front and provisions made for that, rather than do it the other way around after there was a push-back. I had a problem with that. I had a problem with you negotiating with your external creditors because you have to, but you don’t negotiate with the domestic creditors, you simply impose it and you ask us to respond by October 5,” he said.
“So, the Government has done somethings right and it has done somethings wrong. I would probably give them about six,” the former BLP member said.