Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Gov't sends mixed signals about policy on bauxite levy

Published:Friday | March 3, 2017 | 3:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Mike Henry, minister of transport and mining, speaks at the Standing Finance Committee meeting at Gordon House in Kingston, yesterday.

There are conflicting signals about the Government's policy on a bauxite levy in the upcoming fiscal year, with the Minister of Transport and Mining, Mike Henry, yesterday shooting down claims by Finance and the Public Service Minister Audley Shaw that the levy would be scrapped for at least five years.

Facing questions from the parliamentary Opposition during Thursday's sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, Henry made it clear that the regime has not been abandoned.

When Shaw addressed the committee on Tuesday, he said that the Government would be giving up the bauxite levy in the medium term for a profit-sharing arrangement with the bauxite companies.

However, responding to a question yesterday on whether there would be revenue inflows from a bauxite levy for the 2017-2018 financial year, Henry said: "Yes, there will be. There will be revenue at the rate of US$1.50 per tonne - at the minimum - of whatever bauxite they ship."

He told the committee that 2.5 million tonnes of bauxite is projected to be shipped abroad this year.

 

Search for clarity

 

Pressing for greater clarity on the Government's policy on a bauxite levy, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Peter Phillips pointed out that the Revenue Estimates showed no expected inflows from a bauxite levy for the upcoming financial year.

Responding, Henry said: "I am expecting all of that to be adjusted as the substantive minister speaks to what the reality is."

Phillips reasoned that Shaw's pronouncements did not correspond with Henry's explanation, noting that the Parliament, and, by extension, the country, was left to ponder who was right.

"The left hand does not know what the right hand is apparently doing," Phillips quipped.

However, Henry acknowledged that the Government would be entering into a profit-sharing arrangement with the New Day Aluminium (Jamaica) Limited bauxite company.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com