Chybar: Gas tax rollback, a better option
WESTMORELAND BUSINESSMAN Moses Chybar says the Government has not gone far enough in ensuring that the most vulnerable will be protected from increasing global fuel prices, arguing that the practical thing to do was to roll back the fuel tax.
Several groups, including the People’s National Party (PNP), have been advocating for the partial or complete removal of the Special Consumption Tax of $7 per litre that was intended for oil hedging. The tariff was introduced in 2015.
According to Chybar, who owns and operates the ICON service station in the parish, keeping the gas tax is not the best decision, especially in the face of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, Chybar said while it appears that the intention of the Government is to provide some support to the more vulnerable people from the $2 billion set aside in this year’s budget, the method is not adequate.
He said it is very difficult to ensure equity in the benefits under this funding incentive to cushion against the price of gasolene.
“We feel that if we could reduce the gas tax, certainly the impact would be more far-reaching and it would serve a better purpose in terms of its positive impact, especially on those who are more vulnerable,” said Chybar.
“On a personal note, the gas tax rollback would have been better, whether full rollback of part thereof,” he stated.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, on Tuesday told the country that there wiould be no rollback of the special consumption tax on fuel, even as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine inches on and forces an increase in global oil prices.
Instead, Clarke, in opening the Budget Debate in Parliament, announced a $2-billion provision package to support Jamaicans most adversely affected and who are least able to absorb the impact of high petrol and energy prices.
“It’s not going to be easy for that to be distributed in an equitable way and there is no guarantee that it will reach those persons who need it most,” Chybar insisted.
“The general feeling is that a package that can assist, especially the more vulnerable people, is good. However, it would have been better served had we just rolled back the gas tax temporarily until we are through with this situation that we are going through now,” he stated.
Howard Hendricks, president of the St Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, believes that the proposed allocations of resources to the most vulnerable in the society to cushion the effects of the surge in oil prices would reduce the pain in the short run.
The St Elizabeth businessman said the gas break, as announced by Clarke, which will cover benefits for the poor, taxi operators, bus owners and drivers, is a ‘sweetener’ for when harder times come.