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New tax measures are 'poison' for Jamaicans - Grange

Published:Friday | February 15, 2013 | 12:00 AM

 Olivia Grange, the opposition spokesperson on youth, sports, gender affairs, entertainment and culture, has expressed concern about the effects of the latest round of tax measures on the poor and vulnerable in the society.

"As an opposition, we genuinely fear for the welfare of the average Jamaican at this time because our research tells us that the impact of these measures will not be of medicinal value ... they will be poison," Grange said.

"The actions of the past week have totally eroded the spirit of faith and trust needed to foster the social capital needed to govern."

Grange was speaking during a press conference convened yesterday by the JLP to outline its plan of action in the aftermath of tax measures which were announced in Parliament on Tuesday.

Grange charged that while it was in opposition, the People's National Party (PNP) claimed that the JLP administration should be chastised because it did not "consult the people".

"They said they would do things differently. 'Trust us, we will govern with humility,' they said. Today we know they lied to you," Grange declared. "How can you trust an administration that speaks out of two sides of its mouth?"

She added: "What is even more reprehensible is the fact that while we left office at the end of 2011 with a sense of urgency about what needed to be done, they have come to office, wasted an entire year, giving the impression that they had better ideas and plans ... and this package is the best they could come up with? It's just not good enough."

Concerned about NHT contributions

Grange said she was concerned about the fate of workers' contributions to the National Housing Trust (NHT), from which the Government now plans to draw $11 billion over four years to support its economic programme.

She lamented that thousands of workers pay contributions every month with the hope that this would go towards owning a home.

"We are worried about what the $11-billion deduction every year will mean for workers' contributions," she said.

Grange said she was also worried about its effects on the number of houses to be built by the NHT and what that would mean for construction workers.

"Will they be able to find enough work to support their families?" she asked.

"We are worried about the customs fees - are they also going to contract the construction industry? Who will build developments if it becomes too expensive to import building supplies?" queried Grange. "We worry about additional taxes on companies not because we want to protect the rich, but because if companies are taxed too hard, they might cut jobs and what Jamaica needs now is more jobs."

Turning to the fate of the aged, Grange said: "We are aware that when the first JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange) was implemented, it affected returns on pension funds, and we recommended that pension funds employ new and more creative ways of investing pension funds."