Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Leave NHT funds alone, JMA warns Govt

Published:Thursday | February 16, 2017 | 2:18 AMEdmond Campbell
Metry Seaga (left), president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), outlines the growth agenda for the organisation during yesterday’s press conference in downtown Kingston. Also pictured are Richard Pandohie (centre), chief executive officer of SEPROD, and Jason Dear, secretary of the JMA.

 

If the Andrew Holness administration has any concrete plans to raid the National Housing Trust (NHT) for budgetary support this year, it will run into a brick wall of opposition from the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA).

President of the JMA, Metry Seaga, yesterday said the Government should not be dipping into the housing agency's coffers for budgetary purposes.

"We don't feel that the NHT was designed to be used as a tax to the Consolidated Fund. It, in effect, becomes an income tax and not being used for the purpose it was intended," Seaga said at a press briefing at JMA's headquarters on Duke Street, Kingston.

"There needs to be significantly more creativity in the use of NHT funds to get people who have contributed to benefit."

A Government source told The Gleaner recently that the administration was considering using NHT funds for budgetary support.

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica had indicated that this move, if confirmed, would reduce taxes to be imposed for the upcoming fiscal year.

At the same time, Opposition spokesman on finance Dr Peter Phillips said the opposition would not object to the Government going to the NHT to make up the shortfall, as its spending plan would require far-reaching revenue raising measures.

The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will have to find an additional $27 billion in revenue to close the gap in the budget. The money will include about $16 billion for phase two of the government's income tax giveback and $11.4 billion to replace the NHT's budgetary support over the last four years. Additional amounts will have to be found for increased wages and salaries for public sector workers.

Holness and the JLP had resisted the then People's National Party administration's efforts to source funds from the NHT. At the time, the party also threatened to take the matter to court.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com