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Samuda defends big Complant waivers

Published:Thursday | May 31, 2012 | 12:00 AM

A FORMER minister in the Bruce Golding-led administration has painted a dim picture of the attitude of Jamaican firms to development.

Karl Samuda, the opposition spokesman on transport and works, in mounting a defence of massive 20-year tax waivers to Chinese firm Complant, pointed to the reluctance of Jamaican firms to take up an offer from the Government to build and operate an information and communications technology (ICT) facility in Portmore, St Catherine.

"You can't get Jamaican investors, when we wanted them for ICT, to build a facility to create jobs for youngsters without government guarantee," Samuda said.

He told the Parliament yesterday that the Government had invited five of the top contractors on the island to build out the facility. He said the country offered lands and would have assumed the responsibility for finding people to work in the facility.

"They said, 'We will build it, you will put in the people, but for us to put in the first hole, you must give us a government guarantee'," Samuda said.

"They wanted a government guarantee before they would lift the first straw," he added.

Samuda's defence of his government's actions followed revelations yesterday that Complant received 20-year tax breaks on general consumption tax, corporate income, withholding tax, customs and stamp duty or transfer tax.

Guidelines not disclosed

If Complant meets agreed guidelines, which were not disclosed in the document, it will qualify for renewal of corporate income tax and withholding tax on interest payments on loans or advances.

The Gleaner had published details of the arrangement yesterday and later Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke brought it to the attention of Parliament. But Samuda was not amused.

"Complant is not asking for government guarantee. They are only asking for the next best thing, which is an accommodation with tax," he said.

"It is something that should not be criticised but embraced," Samuda said.

He noted that, among other things, Complant is investing US$100 million to build a new factory to replace the Monymusk factory.

In rebuking Clarke, who is the member of parliament for Central Westmoreland, Samuda said 40 per cent of the people in the parish depend on sugar for survival.

"It is shameful that he should come here and seek to undermine legitimate investment that is going to bring relief to his very constituency (where Frome is located) in an attempt to gain cheap political points at the expense of the former minister of finance," Samuda said.

Complant bought the Frome, Bernard Lodge and Monymusk sugar factories for US$9 million or J$774 million in 2010.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com