Elizabeth Davis, Unemployed degree holder
Among the issues addressed by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips was a reduction of general consumption tax by one per cent from 17.5 to 16.5 per cent and a further gradual reduction over a period. He further stated that there would also be an exemption on certain consumer items; this will be readily accepted by most Jamaicans as most persons are finding it very hard to cope due to their inability to purchase basic commodities because of high rates of unemployment and other factors.
The Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme, introduced by the current administration, will see approximately $5 billion being taken from the fund of Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme and another $1 million from the PetroCaribe Fund.
This undoubtedly will provide jobs for persons who have been unemployed for some time; however, this is only a temporary fix,. If this country is to achieve sustainable development, this issue of unemployment needs to be addressed. I was pleased to hear of the upcoming development in the tourist industry in terms of the expansion of RIU and the Marriott hotels which will provide further employment. The Government should also take full advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal as this will also provide additional jobs for our nation's people.
In closing, let us bear in mind that with hearts and minds joined together, much can be achieved. Our leaders should strive to win the confidence of the Jamaican people, as the people are the lifeblood of the country.
Samantha Dixon, Single mother
As a single parent and an unemployed person, I encounter a lot of financial problems. I am the mother of a four-year-old child. I have only been employed once in my life and that was just for three months and two weeks. One of my biggest aims is to start university. I am unable to due to a lack of funds. Listening to the opening of the Budget Debate this afternoon, presented by Dr Peter Phillips, a number of things were outlined.
I personally think that our Government could do much better with the Budget. It's like they are not even considering the fact there are so many unemployed Jamaicans out there who cannot find a good night's dinner. What will become of the vendors on the streets? How will they handle the high cost of living? We can barely afford to feed our children, and the cost to school them is even more expensive than you can imagine. The sufferation is getting worse. What should we do? Sit back and don't do or say anything about it? No way. Jamaicans need to send a stern message to the Government showing them what we have to handle every day and that it's getting worse.
My questions are:
1. Will we be able to go to university?
2. Will there be more jobs on the market?
3. Will the cost of education be reduced?
4. Will my child be able to get good health care?
5. Will there be better roads and proper infrastructure for the country?
Strycen Williams, Business student at UWI
As a banking and finance student, most of the Government's Budget seems unfeasible as delightful as their plans sound. The GOJ will invest in the expansion and building of hotels. However, will this be a good investment? The expected revenue gain from hotels is $2.53 billion. Our tourism sector is already "bawling" because of their inability to fill rooms due to the decrease in visits by tourists to the country over the last couple of years.
However, I am aware that if our Government acts quickly and takes advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal, then we may be able to rebuild our tourism sector.
With so much being said about investing in different areas such as tourism and tax collection, what about education? I know that there needs to be a decrease in public expenditure but education should have been a top priority in the Budget. As a student, I had to raise an eyebrow when Dr Peter Phillips spoke of an "unprecedented access to education at all levels". I hope that Education Minister Ronald Thwaites will have much more to say where education is concerned as I can assure him that many tertiary-level students will be listening attentively.
The Budget presentation was not centred on financing education but was focused on measures which needed to be taken in order for Jamaica's debt to be reduced. He mentioned that Jamaica's problem was a lack of sustained economic growth as the average annual income growth rate was stagnant and the average economic growth rate was less than one per cent.