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Jamaica Chamber wants Gov't to reduce reliance on income tax

Published:Tuesday | October 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson/ Assistant Editor - Business
Lloyd Distant, newly elected president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.

Lloyd Distant, newly elected president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, JCC, says that while the private-sector organisation's ultimate objective is the abolition of the income tax, its more immediate demand would be for the Government to reduce its reliance on the levy as a primary source of public funding.

Rather, he said greater reliance should be placed on indirect taxation, which he regards as a more pragmatic approach to rationalisation and simplification of the tax laws.

Distant, who was elected Tuesday at the Jamaica Chamber's annual general meeting, explained that in simplification, "we should be moving to the flattening" of both corporate and personal tax rates, inclusive of the removal of the five per cent surtax on personal income that was implemented in 2016.

As for rationalisation, he said, "we consider it fundamental to remove taxes that are punitive" as well as those that serve to inhibit growth, citing as examples levies on dividends, the asset and minimum business taxes.

He said the JCC has always expressed the view that the success of Jamaica lies in growing the economy and that convergence was providing opportunities for growth throughout.

"Over the coming year and beyond, the chamber will be a more vocal proponent of the things that will maintain and continue to drive growth," said Distant, who was elected by affirmation, there being no other nomination for the post.

"We are urging the Government to provide more opportunities for local businesses to participate in the myriad of planned infrastructure projects," he said. "We are mindful that as the opportunities are created, our members will need to play their role in building capacity to do more of these projects with local resources."

Distant, who is currently director of his family-owned businesses, Casa De Xaymaca and Reggae Vibes, which operate out of the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, also encouraged members of the Jamaica Chamber to continue to look beyond Jamaica's borders to grow their businesses, noting that they would be engaging the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association in advocating for those things that are necessary to improve export-led growth.

He said the coming years will also see the Jamaica Chamber extending its drive for a business-friendly environment.

"Our Legislation, Regulations and Process Improvement Committee commits to being more vigilant with respect to the Government's legislative agenda and to bring our members and other vested parties into the dialogue, thus ensuring we have regulations that, while mindful of social imperatives, facilitates sustainable growth for Jamaica," said the new president.

The business organisation will also be working more assiduously with other parish chambers to ensure that a collaborative and cohesive front is presented on matters that affect Jamaica, and use its leverage with the International Chamber of Commerce as well as the network of Caribbean chambers to identify and take advantage of opportunities outside of the country.

Distant said the JCC has always seen the redevelopment of downtown Kingston as an opportunity that has been languishing and considers itself a champion of the efforts to rebuild the capital city into a modern metropolis.

"The JCC understands that to achieve this, a sustainable economic ecosystem must be created to increase our engagement on those initiatives that will support the necessary transformation, particularly initiatives that will pull more traffic into downtown Kingston and engage more involvement of chamber members," he said.

"As we continue our efforts for the rejuvenation in downtown Kingston, we are mindful that other towns and cities across the island are poised for explosive growth and commit our support to the responsible parish chambers and their initiatives," said Distant.

At the meeting, Michael McMorris, Ian Neita, Keith Collister and Melanie Subratie were respectively elected first to fourth vice-president of the JCC, while Michael G. Ammar and Lazarus Bucknor were appointed Director Emeritus.