The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) yesterday called for the joint select committee on tax reform to clarify its recommendations to Parliament and the time frame for the adjustments in the general consumption tax regime. It also called for Government to reprioritise expenditures toward improvements in the social safety net for vulnerable Jamaicans.
In a release yesterday, the JCSC said it noted recent press coverage in respect of the committee's draft report and found their content "puzzling and contradictory".
Said the JCSC: "If, as one news outlet has it, the committee is recommending to Parliament that the exemptions on basic foods and certain other items remain only until the additional cash transfers proposed by the Private Sector Working Group are in place, this would make sense and is precisely what the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition proposed in its submission to the committee on March 7."
Clear message needed
The coalition added: "But no clearly articulated message is coming from the joint select committee. This is not satisfactory and should be promptly corrected."
The JCSC said it applauded the desire of the committee to make security for the poor a central goal of tax reform, "which our submission also strongly urged".
"At the same time, we must point out that neither the exemptions nor the compensation for their removal, laudable as these may be, come close to putting together the social safety net that is really needed at this time in Jamaica," the coalition said. "For that to happen, a comprehensive reform of the tax system capable of bringing in sufficient revenues to tackle the country's pressing priorities, combined with a commitment to reprioritise government expenditures towards necessary investments in human development and an adequate social safety net, are absolutely essential actions that should not be delayed."
The JCSC said the the parliamentary committee had in its hands the comprehensive reform package assembled by a working group representing the broadest unity of the private sector ever seen in Jamaica.
"In this package, the committee has its work essentially done for it. The JCSC has given its general support to this package, with the reservations expressed of phasing in the removal of the exemptions on basic foods and other items."