TEF, CHASE-money-taking bills approved
The House of Representatives has approved legislation to allow for tax revenue collected by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority and the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund to go the Consolidated Fund, the Government's main account.
The Government proposed the controversial change earlier this year in arguing that it is forced to use taxes or borrow when public, wealthy public bodies exist. The International Monetary Fund has also raised concerns about the issue.
Audley Shaw, the finance minister, in opening the debate on Tuesday, seized on that argument in noting that the change will also reduce the number of 'governments' in the public sector as well as help the administration's efforts "to limit borrowing and levying new taxes".
"The passage of these bills is essential to ensure a degree of predictability of the Government's programmes and activities. It has been a source of concern for some time that we really can't have a lot of little governments all over the place," he said.
He added: "You have one government and you can't have a dispersal of funds [and] some of them build surpluses while governments have to come to parliament imposing new taxes. It is an inefficient form of government and, therefore, this is a fundamental first step that we're taking in the area of more efficient management of the country's resources."
Meanwhile, Shaw also once again sought to assure that the work of the three agencies will not be affected.
"The work that is undertaken by these agencies is valuable and will not be compromised in any way as the Government will not be seeking to impede or obstruct the mandate of these public bodies. Having regard to this, their activities will continue to be properly funded from the Consolidated Fund."
The sole contributor from the Opposition, Peter Bunting, said the change is good for the management of the country's finances.
"I recall many times [as security minister] having to approach the TEF for assistance to purchase police vehicles and it didn't seem to make sense that the Consolidated Fund couldn't afford something which was a priority for the administration and then you had to go to this mini ministry of finance."
The amendments to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, Civil Aviation Act and the TEF Act were approved without amendments. They are headed to the Senate.