'Phillips not to be trusted'
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
WAVING A copy of The Gleaner for fellow legislators to see, opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, said Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips is not to be trusted; saying the announcement of new taxes is a manifestation of "deception rather than straight talk".
The January 8 article had the headline: 'Big relief - no new taxes, says Phillips; reform, cutting debt on main agenda.'
In the article, Phillips is quoted as saying "We don't have plans for taxation. We have plans for tax reform, generally."
Shaw on Tuesday took the opportunity to pounce on Phillips for what he said is a broken promise, even relying on the biblical account of Peter denying Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of the crucifixion to paint Phillips as one prone to betrayal.
"The minister, in introducing the tax package, was so smooth, that it appeared that honey was flowing from his lips," Shaw said as he taunted Phillips.
"Without any reference whatsoever to his earlier reported comment of no new taxes, no little apology... no little sincerity, never even bat an eyelid, just glibly announce tax package of $6.7 billion, and in fact, shortly after the announcement, he reminded us of the holy season, that it is a time for renewal and resurrection.
"It is a time we should also remember a thing called betrayal! There was betrayal in the story! How many times did the cock crow again?" Shaw taunted.
Earlier, Phillips said the headline of the article misrepresented his discussions and said he will be more careful in giving media interviews.
"I am not complaining, I am just a little wiser," Phillips said, while noting that he was responding to a question primarily to do with petroleum "and I said no, not doing any".
"I said also I am not thinking about tax increases. This was some time in January when a $5-billion shortfall was showing up. I said we were thinking primarily tax reform, but we will have to make the 7.5 per cent surplus target," Phillips added.
The minister said the way in which his interview was reported underscores the "problem of having a range of thoughts summarised in one line in a headline and that becoming the record of your range of thoughts", which he said put him at a particular disadvantage.
The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, through its chairman the Reverend Paul Gardner, said yesterday that the issue of whether Phillips has breached the public trust in relation to his "we don't have plans for taxation" comment will be on the agenda when the group meets on Friday.
Meanwhile, Phillips said that although he values his reputation and the trust of Jamaicans, the foremost important consideration for him at this time is to ensure that Jamaica stays the course of economic reform.