Wed | Feb 21, 2018

Holness says NHT drawdown for debt repayment, not to support 1.5 tax plan

Published:Wednesday | March 22, 2017 | 12:45 PM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaks during a press conference at Jamaica House on Wednesday. — Jermaine Barnaby Photo

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is seeking to clarify that the $11.4 billion to be taken from the National Housing Trust will be used to pay down on Jamaica's debt.

At the same time, Holness has defended the NHT drawdown despite denouncing it while his Jamaica Labour Party was in opposition.

At a press conference on March 13, Finance Minister Audley Shaw, responding to a question from The Gleaner, said the NHT withdrawal was important to the income tax relief promise that helped the Labour party win the 2016 general election.

"We couldn't cease to take the draw down from the NHT this year in line with second phase of the personal income tax giveback," Shaw said. 

"It is firmly our intention to phase that out but we could not do everything one time." 

At a press conference today, Holness said the NHT money is to be used to help pay down on Jamaica's debt.

"The NHT resources were never used to support the tax package for the replacement of personal income tax," Holness insisted. 

Meanwhile, Holness this morning spent a long time trying to explain why his administration has moved to take funds from the NHT although the Jamaica Labour Party had denounced it while in opposition.

"I don't mind if you win a political battle to say 'well, he broke his promise' ... The battle I want to win is that project Jamaica is still viable, Holness said.

"If you want to win a political battle to say, 'well, I've got him', go ahead, you've got me, but project Jamaica is still viable."


Prime Minister, Andrew Holness

IN PHOTO: The National Housing Trust building 

Economist Dr Damien King has taken to Twitter weighing in on the pronouncements over the purpose of the NHT drawdown.

"The transfer from NHT to the budget is justifiable on economic grounds. No need to fool up the people about which expense it pays for," King said.

He added: "This distinction is nonsensical. If not for the income tax cut, less funding would be needed overall so the NHT funds would not be necessary."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said a policy on using surpluses from public bodies has not been finalised.

Saying he's not about winning elections, Holness said his government will ensure that public bodies are aligned to support government policies.

"We argue sometimes over some things that are just very trivial and nonsensical, not going to help us. We have bigger problems out there! I'm not here to win elections and elections and elections and be the most popular person."


Prime Minister, Andrew Holness