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I can't say there'll be no new taxes, says PM

Published:Friday | January 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Bishop Dr Delford Davis (centre) of The Power of Faith Ministries International holds hands with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (right) and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness while he prayed for them during the 34th National Leadership Prayer Breakfast under the theme 'Courageous Leadership for Challenging Times'. The Prayer Breakfast was held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

The country is getting mixed messages about whether Jamaicans will be called on to pay new taxes during the next fiscal year. While Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips was emphatic that there would be none, when he spoke to The Gleaner last week, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller indicated yesterday that she was unsure of whether any new taxes will be introduced.

Yesterday, Bishop Dr Delford Davis of the Power of Faith Ministries appealed for a "breath of fresh air" to cover the country, saying this atmosphere should also be reflected in the upcoming Budget.

Delivering the key address at yesterday's 34th National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, the bishop said the country is now cloaked in problems and hardships and this must be changed if Jamaica is to progress.

"We need to breathe a sigh of fresh air from all these social ills and also, if possible, we need to breathe a sigh of relief from any new taxes," he said to thunderous applause at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

But Simpson Miller, responding to the clergyman's call for a reprieve from taxes and recent queries about the upcoming Budget, said while she would continue advocating for the poor, she could not say what will be included in April's tax package.

"I can't tell you there will be no tax," the prime minister said. "I am not sure based on our fiscal space - the fact that we are under an IMF (International Monetary Fund) programme - what will happen," she added.

DIFFERENT NOTE

However, last week, Phillips struck a different note, when he told The Gleaner he had no intention to impose any new taxes.

He stated: "We don't have plans for taxation. We have plans for tax reform."

But yesterday, Simpson Miller said attention will be paid to all the variables and the best option for the country would be considered.

Meanwhile, Davis made a call for the country's leaders to step up to the plate and demonstrate a certain level of bravery in their leadership.

"Courageous leaders at all levels are needed. We need them in the homes, we need them in the schools, we need them in the Church, we need them in business, in politics, the security forces [and] the media," Davis opined.

jermaine.francis@gleanerjm.com