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Fuel tax 'cutback'

Published:Tuesday | March 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

GOVERNMENT HAS apparently backtracked on its promise to pay an increased percentage of the year-old special fuel tax to the Road Maintenance Fund.

Figures contained in the 2010-2011 Estimates of Expenditure indicate that the Government plans to use less of the fuel tax on roads than it did last year.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw, in announcing the cess last April, had said 20 per cent of the $8.75 tax would go to the Road Maintenance Fund to be used for the repair and upgrade of roads and structures.

Shaw also promised that the percentage from the fuel tax that would be paid into the fund would be increasing gradually after the first year.

However, the figures contained in the estimates for government spending indicate that Government plans to hand over $1.5 billion to the fund from the fuel tax. The figure represents a $300 million decrease when compared to the $1.8 billion that was paid over to the fund last fiscal year from the tax.

Road project still on

Meanwhile, there is every indication that an ambitious government road project will get under way by next month and will last two years. The road programme, which Government said would produce 1,800 jobs, is being funded under a loan from the Chinese government.

A total of $1 billion has been outlined in the Estimates of Expenditure to undertake what has been labelled the Palisades Shoreline and Road Project. The project is intended to make the corridor of the airport road less susceptible to flooding, while protecting Kingston Harbour from storm surges.

Among the other proposed spending in this year's Budget is a $97.5-million payment to TransJamaican Highway, operators of the toll road, for its delay in approving an increase in toll rates.

The allocation will also take into account compensation for opening up the toll road to the public on December 1, 2009, because of a fire at Wray & Nephew on Spanish Town Road, Kingston.

The 2010-2011 Estimates of Expenditure also show that $10 million has been allocated for capital spending on roads and structures. The figure represents more than a 100 per cent cut in the allocation, which has come down from $24.5 million last year and $155.5 million in the initial 2009-2010 Estimates that was first approved by Parliament.