Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Jamaica keenly monitoring US border wall funding proposal

Published:Friday | April 28, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith

The Government has indicated that it is keeping a close eye on a draft bill in the United States that is proposing to tax remittances sent to countries like Jamaica, the funds from which would be used to fund President Donald Trump's US border wall with Mexico, intended to curb illegal migration.

At the same time, stating that if enacted, it would have a "devastating effect on Jamaica's economy", the Opposition is also urging the Government to "act expeditiously" on the matter, with the aim of having the US reconsider the proposal.

The Draft Bill, titled 'H.R. 1813 - Border Wall Funding Act of 2017', is seeking to amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to impose an additional fee of two per cent of the US dollar amount for remittance transfers to a list of countries.

The draft is now before several committees for consideration.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said that it was fully aware of the situation, however, according to portfolio minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, "It should be noted that this was a first step in the process of getting legislation through Congress."

She continued, "It is important to note that hundreds of drafts bills are introduced by congressional representatives every year, but many of them fail to make it through to extensive legislative process."

Work with CARICOM

The minister said that Jamaica is also prepared to work with CARICOM in a coordinated approach, a move that is also being proposed by the Opposition.

"The Opposition is obligated to call on the Government of Jamaica to act expeditiously in opening the diplomatic channel with neighbouring CARICOM partners with the aim of lobbying the United States Government and Congress to reconsider the current proposal, which is now making its way through the US Congress. Enacted as written, it would have a devastating effect on Jamaica's economy," a statement from the opposition People's National Party said yesterday.

The Opposition added, "It seems inappropriate that the requirements of funding to build a border wall between the USA and Mexico would fall on the backs of the poor here in Jamaica and throughout the region."

They are also calling on the Government to solicit the support of "our friends in Congress", as well as galvanising the diaspora to lobby Congress to stop the passage of the bill.