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Legislation for IMF requirements could delay other drafts

Published:Wednesday | May 29, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

AN AGGRESSIVE legislative agenda to satisfy structural benchmarks under the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) extended fund facility could delay other critical pieces of legislation being crafted by the Government for promulgation this parliamentary year.

Senator Mark Golding, justice minister and chairman of the legislation committee of Cabinet, told The Gleaner the administration would be seeking additional help in the form of a draughtsperson from the Commonwealth Secretariat to provide support in drafting legislation.

If the draughtsperson is retained, this would bring to two the number of technical persons from the Commonwealth Secretariat who are providing assistance to the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.

"I have also discussed with the chief parliamentary counsel whether he would like to take on board anybody locally from outside of his department to assist," Golding said.

"I think the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel will be able to deliver the bills on a timely basis, but of course there are capacity limitations so that there may be other legislation that we would like to see come forward which may have to wait a little until those other bills are drafted because those IMF bills have priority at this point in time," the justice minister added.

Three passed this year

Parliament has already passed three pieces of legislation this year in support of structural benchmarks under the IMF programme.

The three pieces of legislation are the Tax Administration Jamaica Act, 2013; the Tax Collection (Amendment) Act, 2013; and a law to harmonise the treatment of charitable organisations for the purpose of taxation.

Golding advised that there were about 12 pieces of legislation linked to the IMF agreement to be passed during this legislative year.

Commenting on the Government's overall legislative agenda, Golding noted that a portfolio of bills were being worked on, with some at various stages of development.

Asked what was the Government's target for the legislative year, Golding did not provide a number but argued that experience had proved that it was difficult to predict the passage of bills with accuracy.

Last week, the Economic Programme Oversight Committee raised concern about the Government's capacity to complete legislative reforms linked to the IMF programme.

In a newspaper advertisement, the committee said: "This programme of work may exceed the Government of Jamaica's capacity to draft legislation, thereby endangering the deadlines set in the structural benchmark schedule."

Proposed laws such as the anti-gang legislation and statute to establish a single anti-corruption body are expected to be passed during this parliamentary year.