Sun | Mar 25, 2018

JHTA ready to battle move to take money from TEF for Consolidated Fund

Published:Thursday | March 16, 2017 | 11:13 AM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) is objecting to plans by the government to move money from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to the Consolidated Fund.

Last evening, the JHTA wrote to Finance Minister Audley Shaw warning that it is prepared to fight to protect the TEF from being dismantled by what it says seems to be intent to “garnish” the funds for use in areas that will not be for the growth and benefit of the tourism industry.

JHTA president Omar Robinson maintains that the TEF, established in 2004, is specifically for investment to enhance the tourist sector.

The TEF is directly funded by a charge on airline tickets of arriving visitors, and was designed to remove the burden from the Jamaican taxpayer.

“This is one of the main reasons these funds are held and managed separately from the Consolidated Fund,” the JHTA said.

Currently, 50 per cent of the TEF is used to market the destination, while the other 50 per cent is used to maintain and develop the tourism product.

“There is still much to do across the country to build the industry and maintain its competitiveness, and we cannot stand by and see this vision diluted,” said Robinson.

Members of the JHTA are part of the TEF Board, but the organisation says they were not consulted about the proposal to move money to the Consolidated Fund.

Former Tourism Minister Aloun Assamba is also against the proposal.

“The law is very clear and when the Fund was being set up, it was clear that it would never be brought into the Consolidated Fund, that was one of the objectives and ring fence,” said Assamba.

She said the government would have to change the law if the move from the TEF is to be moved to the Consolidated Fund.

According to the former tourism minister, the airlines would never have agreed to collecting this money on Jamaica’s behalf, if it was not promised it would be used to develop tourism.

“IATA (International Air Transport Association) would say we have gone back on our word, they were assured that the money was going into a trust,” she said.

She argued that the tourism sector can forget all the projects that are being done if this happens.

“It is the only fund in the country that allows any spending to improve and develop the destination,” she added.