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Offer tax write-offs to cushion roadwork losses – PSOJ

Published:Friday | February 22, 2019 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Howard Mitchell, president of the PSOJ. File

Businesses along Hagley Park Road that have haemorrhaged billions of dollars in losses from the Government’s months-long roadwork project should be offered tax write-offs as compensation for a precipitous fall in revenue.

That’s the word from Howard Mitchell, head of Jamaica’s most powerful private-sector lobby, who said anecdotal analysis of businesses in the vicinity of Portia Simpson Miller at Three Miles has revealed losses of $1 billion.

He said he has been asked to be the frontman in negotiations with the Holness administration to hammer out a compensation deal.

“We are aware that the Government will not cut a cheque, but if we can look at things like at some sort of temporary break on general consumption tax or other taxes, it would give these businesses a chance to recover. That is where we are at the moment,” Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, told The Gleaner.

Mitchell stressed that while the PSOJ was welcoming of infrastructure development in the Greater Hagley Park area – part of a trinity of Legacy Projects at crucial nodes to the city – the notion that property values would soar was a matter of conjecture not based on facts.

“The argument that things will be so wonderful and that these business operators will be able to make it up when these works are done is not certain,” said the PSOJ president.

“I am not sure, because when you look at the Barbican infrastructure improvement, we are not seeing that kind of boom in business since. The traffic is moving a lot more easily along Barbican Road, but the business places are not necessarily experiencing any great increase in activity. I don’t get the impression they are benefiting yet from the upgrade.”

In a recent Sunday Gleaner story, CEO of the National Works Agency, E.G. Hunter, was optimistic that landowners stood to gain significantly from road overhaul, which includes sewerage and telecommunications infrastructure works.

But Mitchell, an attorney-at-law, was dismissive of Hunter’s remarks.

“That assessment is based clearly on aspiration and speculation than actual facts. I am not sure how he’s going to tell that gas station operator at Three Miles that has lost at least a third of his land that the increase in value will compensate, and I am not sure how’s he going to tell operators of businesses at Marcus Garvey Drive, below the Three Miles area, how their lack of access and the amount of service they have lost is going to be recovered.”

However, David Wan, president of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation, was less apocalyptic in his assessment of the Corporate Area works. He said that he has seen little signal that the road-widening exercise has seriously impacted employees.

“Some commuters would have made the adjustment as best they can. In the meantime, we haven’t gotten any serious report on the matter,” Wan told The Gleaner. “I think people have adjusted their travel route, as well as the time they allocate for travel to get around the problems.”

He believes that even though businesses have been inconvenienced, workers and employers have rolled with the punches.