Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness was yesterday forced to assume the role of Opposition Spokesman on Finance as a result of Audley Shaw's no-show at the sitting of the House of Representatives.
In the absence of Shaw, who is challenging Holness for the job of Jamaica Labour Party leader, the opposition leader was left to quiz Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips.
Phillips had earlier told the House that the finalisation of the Omnibus Tax Incentive Act, which was expected to be completed by month end, had been deferred until some time in October.
The finance minister told Parliament that Omnibus, along lines that had been mutually agreed, would require additional analytical work and would not meet the month-end deadline.
With Shaw's chair vacant, Holness sprang to his feet and requested information on what he characterised as the "critical issues" that had delayed the implementation deadline.
Phillips cited tax issues that he said were related to the specific design of tax credit, which would incentivise a range of allowances such as capital and depreciation.
The finance minister said a fundamental change in the economic environment is needed in order to incentivise productive activities.
When pressed by Holness, Phillips said some of the proposals did not find favour with the multi-lateral agencies and triggered further discussions and analyses.
Phillips stressed that the macro-economic and structural-reform programme of the Government of Jamaica remained on track.
"We are confident about the performance of the targets for September 30, which will be the subject of review by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] board in December 2013," said Phillips.
Last night, Bert van Selm, the resident representative of the IMF, said the Fund's staff is aware of the advanced stage of the preparation of the Omnibus tax incentives legislation and would continue to assist the Jamaican authorities to help ensure that the programme's objectives are achieved.
"Economic reforms continue to progress, and all structural benchmarks through end August were completed on schedule, including the presentation by the Government of a conceptual framework for a fiscal rule to entrench fiscal discipline over the medium term," Selm said in a media release.