Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
DECRYING THE state of political leadership in the island, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips yesterday fired thinly veiled jabs at Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, stopping short of telling him to step up and be a good leader.
Holness and members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have been on the offensive since Tuesday when Phillips announced a $15.9-billion tax package in Parliament.
The minister also announced that $11.4 billion would be taken from the National Housing Trust (NHT) over the next four years to help finance the affairs of the country.
Speaking during a press conference at Jamaica House in St Andrew yesterday, hours after the JLP blasted the Government for its revenue measures, including the raid on the NHT, Phillips stressed that the package was a necessary prior action in securing a deal with the IMF.
"It is easy to be all things to all persons but leadership and the search for leadership that I believe those who would offer themselves should try to aspire to is to point a way in the midst of the difficult decisions," Phillips said.
The finance minister said that owing to the fact that Jamaica is seeking to achieve a primary surplus target of 7.5 per cent next year from its current 6.3 per cent, there is a need for "a strenuous and upfront adjustment".
Those adjustments, the minister said, include raising revenue. He said the assistance of the National Housing Trust was sought since it is the holder of revenues that have already been paid, so as to prevent imposing even more new taxes.
"If the contributions that are to be made are not made, whether by the bondholders, the taxpayers, the NHT, or anyone, if they are not made then the consequences to our failure to make the adjustment will destroy all the value in all the institutions, much more devastatingly and substantially than you could imagine," Phillips warned.
In one clear reference to Holness, Phillips said: "It is not credible for you to say that you are against all taxes when you were warning a few months ago of bitter medicine, to quote someone."
He added: "And when you were accusing the Government a little while ago of not having the gumption, my word, to take decisions that need to be taken."
Holness, during the December 2011 general election campaign, had said a JLP government led by him would have to administer bitter medicine to the economy.
Yesterday, Phillips argued that if the country was to grow, "our politics has to rise above that".
He argued that the time had come to design a political path that gives Jamaica a chance as a country to perform better.
"This is not the time for us to think that there is political advantage or other sectional advantage to be gained by everyone. Now more than ever, we have to demonstrate our collective capacity as a country to do for the country what mature countries do, which is to take the tough collective decisions to guarantee our survival and progress."