Jamaica Observer http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/ JamaicaObserver.com, the most concise and in-depth website for news coverage on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Updated daily 7 days a week, 24 hours a day en-us copyright Jamaica Observer, 2011 No &lsquo;Ari&rsquo;, Jamaicans don&rsquo;t hate you, absolutely not! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/No--Ari---Jamaicans-don-t-hate-you--absolutely-not-_93844 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I am trying to understand the thinking behind the Jamaica Observer&rsquo;s story in yesterday&rsquo;s edition under the headline &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t hate me, Jamaica, Ugandan athlete pleads&rsquo;. The story was written by the paper&rsquo;s editor-at-large, H G Helps, himself a Kingston College old boy, and while it might assist in selling more copies of the paper, it has done nothing to diminish the vitriol that has been following this youngster since his arrival into the island.<br /> <br /> If the intent was to have brought the &lsquo;Fortis&rsquo; massive together for the battle that looms ahead this week I find it only promotes more divisiveness among the misguided fans that percolate around both schools, and it also draws more unwarranted attention to young Rodgers.<br /> <br /> I am an unrepentant fan of Jamaica&rsquo;s track and field and a Fortis man with every sinew of my being, and from both perspectives I unreservedly reject the notion that any Jamaican hates Aryamanya &ldquo;Ari&rdquo; Rodgers, despite any uttering that may have escaped anyone&rsquo;s thought. Jamaica is a global track colossus, and young Rodgers&rsquo; desire to develop his talents here, where champions are made, provides that proof. <br /> <br /> The article could have simply provided a portal into the struggles Rodgers experienced in pursuing his desires to get here and to say to Jamaicans, here is proof positive of the pulling power of this little island. It could have been used to buttress Kingston College&rsquo;s decision to welcome him into the hallowed halls of the institution as a pioneer in what certainly will be the first of many, but alas, this was not the case, especially at this time as we sit on the cusp of the opening of the 107th running of the boys&rsquo; and girls&rsquo; championships.<br /> <br /> Rodgers, as a Jamaican, first let me welcome you to our beautiful island, and as a Fortis man, let me say that our Calabar rivals are not our enemies, but worthy competitors whose objective is to be like us. They wish to be dominant in this sport because they are indeed great adversaries. They may have gone overboard in their protests, but that, unfortunately, is merely an indication of their enthusiasm overflowing.<br /> <br /> Go forth and bring yourself victory as the only price to be exacted for the struggles you endured to get here. Leave it all on the track where it belongs, and when Saturday comes to a close you will echo the rallying chant that is the ethos of Kingston College: Fortis, Cadere, Cedere, Non Potest.<br /> <br /> Richard Hugh Blackford<br /> <br /> richardhblackford@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13737715/266792_92706_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 28, 2017 12:00 AM Tax dept policy for TRN to citizens&rsquo; associations flawed http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tax-dept-policy-for-TRN-to-citizens--associations-flawed_93854 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Please allow me to voice my concern regarding the granting of Tax Registration Numbers (TRN) to citizens&rsquo; associations.<br /> <br /> Businesses, such as banks, or even utilities like Jamaica Public Service, for example, require a TRN. In our application to the tax office for a TRN we submitted the relevant forms with the names and personal information of the executives of our citizens&rsquo; association along with our constitution/by-laws and a supporting letter from Social Development Commission.<br /> <br /> We were told that the policy is that in order for our citizens&rsquo; association to get a TRN we must first make a company registration or register with the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies.<br /> <br /> A call to the companies office revealed that it requires us to compete an application accompanied by fees of $3,000 &mdash; money we don&rsquo;t have. Our next option was to register with the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies. They too require a registration fee, but also mandate that the applicant (our members) come into their office for training.<br /> <br /> Now, why do groups such as ours have to first register with them before we can get a TRN?<br /> <br /> We are a community group, not a company. All we want to do is to be able to deposit our funds into a financial institution.<br /> <br /> Presently we cannot get electricity to our community centre in the name of our citizens&rsquo; association without a TRN. We have a situation in which someone wants to donate a titled parcel of land to our association and this transfer cannot be done without a TRN.<br /> <br /> The tax department should be facilitating groups such as ours. Why is there no desk at the tax office to examine documents of citizens&rsquo; associations and similar groups to grant them a TRN? Or for us to make an annual declaration of our activities to the tax department?<br /> <br /> The present one-size-fits-all policy imposed by Tax Administration Jamaica makes no sense.<br /> <br /> Citizens&rsquo; associations, youth clubs and similar groups do not meet the standard of a company and should not be required to be registered with the aforementioned group. I hope that the powers that be look into making the process much easier, exempting groups such as ours from this poorly thought-out policy.<br /> <br /> Authnel S Reid<br /> <br /> authnelreid@aol.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13739830/TRN_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 28, 2017 12:00 AM Churches, please, wake up! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Churches--please--wake-up-_93106 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Around 9:20 am on Sunday, March 19, 2017 a very serious thought came to my mind. During the period leading up to a political election, people, including church members, are so active in supporting the political parties. Some go on the platform and speak loudly, without fear, promoting their party. However, when it comes to being vibrant in going around and speaking about God, these same people are not seen.<br /> <br /> In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks about the last days &mdash; in which we are now living. Matthew 24: 14 specifically states: &ldquo;And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.&rdquo; He certainly indicated that his followers will be preaching the message of God&rsquo;s kingdom in these last days.<br /> <br /> Church members, wake up!<br /> <br /> Acts 5: 42 shows that the apostles had the custom, like Jesus, of preaching from house to house. In Matthew 10: 12 the apostles were charged to go out to meet people, rather than just go to buildings to worship.<br /> <br /> One popular religious group we know of, regularly, yes, consistently, go to people&rsquo;s houses to preach and share. Sometimes some people do not treat this religious group well, which is sad. I do commend them, through, for their perseverance in not giving up at all regardless of some people&rsquo;s negative responses. Chapter eight of their main study book,<br /> <br /> What does the <br /> <br /> b<br /> <br /> ible really teach?, discusses God&rsquo;s kingdom.<br /> <br /> Galatians 6:9 tells us not to become weary in doing good. Church members, ask yourself, please, what do I love more &mdash; politics or God? If we really love God more than politics why don&rsquo;t we prove it by going out and talking about God and the gospel of his kingdom to people at their homes and elsewhere? <br /> <br /> Churches, please, wake up! Wake up! The end of the world is near! <br /> <br /> Kenneth Kayman<br /> <br /> mrkennethkayman@outlook.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13735695/266619_92559_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 28, 2017 12:00 AM The corned beef iceberg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/The-corned-beef-iceberg_93742 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> If bad corned beef is really being imported and sold in Jamaica there may be other shoddy products being imported and sold that have escaped the scrutiny of our local watchdogs. <br /> <br /> Last year I got an electrical mosquito zapper (made in China) which worked only the day I got it, and I tossed it in the garbage bin the following day because it stopped working &mdash; utter crap!<br /> <br /> I bought a portable water heater at Rapid True Value in December last year which worked fairly well, but now has conked out. On the front panel of the installed device there is a statement &ldquo;In Jamaica call 1-888-heaters for warranty and after sales service&rdquo;. I have tried that number several times without getting any response &mdash; no voicemail even, it just rings out &mdash; and when I called Rapid True Value about it they seem to give me the runaround without providing any help.<br /> <br /> How is this kind of nonsense allowed in modern Jamaica? Are we forgetting the iceberg phenomenon &mdash; the larger portion is under water? Let us &ldquo;tek sleep mark death&rdquo;!<br /> <br /> And while I am at it, why are the cellphone companies allowed to dictate a &lsquo;use by&rsquo; date for the credit customers buy for their own phone convenience? You lose access to the purchased credit if you don&rsquo;t comply too. Isn&rsquo;t this a species of &lsquo;hol&rsquo; dung tek weh&rsquo;? It&rsquo;s criminal, in my view, so where is the regulator in all this? <br /> <br /> Cry the beloved country!<br /> <br /> Rev Clinton Chisholm<br /> <br /> clintchis@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13725816/265713__w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM NDM supports &lsquo;Clear, Hold and Build&rsquo;, but... http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/NDM-supports--Clear--Hold-and-Build---but---_93708 Dear Editor<br /> <br /> The National Democratic Movement (NDM) has endorsed most aspects of the latest crime Bill before Parliament, but has serious concerns about the potential draconian powers being proposed and being placed almost solely in the hands of the prime minister.<br /> <br /> The NDM sees many potential positives in the proposed new law: For example, within the concept of &ldquo;Clear, Hold and Build&rdquo;, the Clear and Hold &mdash; which seem to be the first steps towards dismantling the &ldquo;political garrisons&rdquo; &mdash; have the full support of the movement.<br /> <br /> Citing success of a similar joint police/military operation in the past, the NDM is of the view that the clearing and holding aspects were successful whereas the building aspect failed because the Government and its agencies failed to come on board with a workable plan to support the agenda.<br /> <br /> The NDM&rsquo;s concerns are regarding the additional powers being conferred on the prime minister by himself, particularly with the prime minister representing a garrison seat and the implications for conflicts of interest.<br /> <br /> The movement is proposing that oversight could be carried out by a special, five-person committee which could be made up of the prime minister and one other government representative; the commissioner of police; one representative from the Opposition party; and one from a recognised human rights organization.<br /> <br /> The NDM has also taken note of the stance of People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) leader Peter Phillips in opposing the proposal and wondered if there is a correlation between it and the fact that the PNP controls 12 full garrisons and some half-garrisons, with Dr Phillips himself representing a garrison constituency.<br /> <br /> Finally, the NDM has proposed that when the joint military and police team goes into any community, it is accompanied by the media to ensure that there is no abuse of their powers as occurred in the case of the destructive operation in Tivoli Gardens in 2010.<br /> <br /> Peter Townsend<br /> <br /> President, National Democratic Movement<br /> <br /> ndmjamaica@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13725477/Tivoli_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM Internet free rein beating traditional media conservatism http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Internet-free-rein-beating-traditional-media-conservatism_93747 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Recently the owners of one of the country&rsquo;s main dailies decided to throw in the towel and sell the newspaper to a rival company. No doubt, one of the reasons the owners didn&rsquo;t see the point in holding on to what they clearly saw as a lost cause was because the newspaper simply wasn&rsquo;t making profit that is worth their time.<br /> <br /> Newspapers, especially, are finding surviving in today&rsquo;s world very hard. There have always been predictions about the final burial of newspapers. When the radio came on the scene, it was felt that newspapers would no longer be needed. When that did not happen, the same prediction was expected to be fulfilled with the arrival of the television. Still, newspapers survived. Now we have the Internet and mobile technology. With these developments, the days of the newsprint are indeed coming to an end.<br /> <br /> One reason traditional media are finding it hard to compete with the Internet these days is simply on account of the editorial standards of many traditional media organisations themselves. In today&rsquo;s world, conservatism will be the end of any media house. The Internet has given the masses the means to express themselves, virtually uncensored, in ways that most traditional media, especially newspapers, can&rsquo;t. Almost anything can be had on the Internet and anybody can express a thought without much fear of the conservative editor to block that expression.<br /> <br /> More and more people are going electronic. Indeed, several major newspapers around the world have in fact stopped printing altogether, as they realise that putting anything on paper is the best way to keep it a secret.<br /> <br /> The Internet has enabled social media to explode in ways unimaginable. Remember the 9/11 attacks in America? Many people saw that live &mdash; and mostly through the internet. When the British Houses of Parliament were attacked recently, I was alerted immediately through the Internet. The Internet has localised international news.<br /> <br /> The Internet is truly giving newspapers and traditional media a run for their advertisement dollar. Advertisers are increasingly becoming aware of the impact and reach of the Internet.<br /> <br /> Internet platforms like Facebook and YouTube learned a long time ago that conservatism and ease of access through technology don&rsquo;t go together. That&rsquo;s why they are so dominant. If today&rsquo;s traditional media, especially today&rsquo;s newspapers, want to survive, they must understand that too much censorship will be their undoing. The Internet has given people too many alternatives for that to work anymore.<br /> <br /> Michael A Dingwall<br /> <br /> michael_a_dingwall@hotmail.<br /> <br /> com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13737731/266767_92677_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM Land tax making pensioners desperate http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Land-tax-making-pensioners-desperate_93709 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Pensioners may soon have no choice but to forfeit their homes given the onslaught of property tax increases; first the 150 per cent from the People&rsquo;s National Party Government, and now a giant increase by the Jamaica Labour Party Administration.<br /> <br /> Amongst the vulnerable are over 100,000 of us, NIS pensioners, in danger of losing our homes and land. The reason there is $13-billion plus in outstanding taxes is simply that, with a limping economy and our inability to find even part-time work, etc, we pensioners only have a sole yearly income of $67,000 from an NIS pension. We just cannot afford to pay land tax, much less the magnitude of the recent increases.<br /> <br /> We elderly Jamaicans, living in a shrinking economy, which exhibits no support or avenue for innovation, have, as in my case, no will to invest our valuable learned skills and experience, as we all are beset by unpayable rates of land tax.<br /> <br /> Yes, there have been tax cuts and threshold moves, but pensioners don&rsquo;t benefit from tax cuts. In fact, NIS, unlike PAYE earners, last got an increase some four years ago &mdash; $400.<br /> <br /> As a way of enabling some security amongst the elderly and infirm, and upping their spending power, I am suggesting that pensioners, both NIS and Government, be given a 70 per cent reduction in land tax. That would make their lives and contributions to the growth of our country less rhetorical and more reality.<br /> <br /> Anthony Goffe<br /> <br /> Mandeville, Manchester<br /> <br /> tony@peeniwalli.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/9546142/post-office_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM Let&rsquo;s not cry over tax on health insurance http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Let-s-not-cry-over-tax-on-health-insurance_93252 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> When it comes to health and tax I, like every human, shudder in fear, but if you put emotions aside you&rsquo;ll get the bigger picture. <br /> <br /> So the first person who came out swinging against the Government&rsquo;s planned application of General Consumption Tax on group health insurance premiums was the former chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee and the current CEO of Sagicor Group. Let&rsquo;s look at their flagship programme of Sagicor Life. The company reported profit in 2014 of $6.3 billion, 2015 ($8.2 billion), and 2016 ($8 billion).<br /> <br /> On Sunday, March 12, I saw a Jamaica Observer story in which CEO of Guardian Life and president of Insurance Association of Jamaica Eric Hosin discussed how this tax will be passed on to customers and offering concern that employers will drop insurance off their budgets. Guardian Life&rsquo;s profit for 2014 and 2015 &mdash; I haven&rsquo;t found 2016 numbers yet &mdash; are $2.2 billion and $4.8 billion respectively.<br /> <br /> So let&rsquo;s add up both companies profit for 2015 you&rsquo;ll get $13 billion. The Government just wants $1.88 billion out of that.<br /> <br /> Hosin went on to explain that health insurance coverage in Jamaica, based on figures as at September 30, 2016, is low, as only 415,867 employees &mdash; 207,302 of them government employees &mdash; have group health insurance. This is approximately a third of the country&rsquo;s workforce and there are an additional 289,417 people (128,415 on government schemes) covered as dependents. &ldquo;The total number of persons covered is therefore 705,284, which represents approximately a quarter of our population,&rdquo; stated Hosin.<br /> <br /> So here are my questions: How many of us really benefit from the insurance we are paying? How many of the employers and employees benefit when insurance companies boast all that profit about annually? I&rsquo;m all for businesses making profit, but they must pay their fair share too.<br /> <br /> Health insurance is a service and such services qualify for taxation.<br /> <br /> Teddylee Gray<br /> <br /> teddylee.gray@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/8757157/Tax-office-3_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM We need more &lsquo;Butch&rsquo; Stewarts http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/We-need-more--Butch--Stewarts_93476 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I am comforted to know that we have people like Gordon &ldquo;Butch&rdquo; Stewart who can put country above self. I wish we had more people like him.<br /> <br /> His suggestion to give half of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) money to assist the Government in taking Jamaica out of the rut we are in is the kind of attitude we need at this time.<br /> <br /> As Stewart said, the tourism product is based on our beautiful island. The industry should recognise that it is making a good living from what belongs to all Jamaicans &mdash; the natural sun, sea, sand, the lush vegetation, the alluring flora and fauna.<br /> <br /> If we were in normal times I would say let the TEF funds remain in tourism, but these are difficult times for the country.<br /> <br /> My advice to the Government is to make sure the money is well spent so that at the end of the day, we can all say it was worth it.<br /> <br /> Joseph Pettigrew<br /> <br /> jospet2014@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731195/265946_92032_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM Toward reducing crime http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Toward-reducing-crime_91068 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Fear follows crime, and is it punishment.&rdquo; &mdash; Voltaire<br /> <br /> According to police statistics, 1,350 Jamaicans were murdered in 2016. Despite the downward trend of other crimes, such as rape, aggravated assault and robbery, the murder rate for the island has been rather troubling to say the least.<br /> <br /> Sadly, successive governments have been unable to address the island&rsquo;s spiralling crime rate. According to police data, the murder rate in 2016 was an 11 per cent increase over 2015.<br /> <br /> Yet, despite the doom and gloom, there was a bright spot for the community of August Town which recorded zero murders in 2016. The environs of August Town at one time had a reputation of crime and violence, so much so that people were afraid to venture into the area. A number of stakeholders at the time thought it appropriate to invest their time and money in order to transform what was once considered a crime-ridden area.<br /> <br /> In 2008, a peace agreement was signed and the fruits of that agreement were realised eight years later, in 2016, which saw zero murders. There are many lessons from this blueprint. This transformation has shown us that there is no community in Jamaica which cannot be saved and changed into a peaceful and law-abiding settlement. The August Town model must be replicated across all those areas which are constantly being plagued by murders in which people live in fear and in which public play areas are empty of the voices of children having fun.<br /> <br /> Clearly, the success in August Town was not achieved by the wave of a magic wand. The collaborative efforts of the citizenry, Government through social intervention programmes, The University of the West Indies, as well as the Peace Management Initiative, all played a part in achieving this accomplishment. We cannot underestimate the power of citizen participation and involvement in the fight against crime. Our security forces need to invest more time and resources in building trust and engaging in collaborative efforts if as a society we are going to win the war against crime and violence. <br /> <br /> In the words of Bobby Scott, &ldquo;We can play politics, or we can reduce crime.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Wayne Campbell<br /> <br /> waykam@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> @WayneCamo<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731212/266347_92166_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM August will still be happy; SLB safe http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/August-will-still-be-happy--SLB-safe_93510 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It is in response to the letter &lsquo;SLB cut almost brought me to tears&rsquo; scripted by Kimberley Thompson, published on March 22, 2017 that I write.<br /> <br /> Education is not a political football and I do not appreciate such games. It was released on March 21, 2017 that the Government was slashing crucial funding for the most relied on tertiary education fund in Jamaica &mdash; the Students&rsquo; Loan Bureau (SLB). The thought of such an abhorrent act made me squirm, and I was determined to learn more. Why cut the funding? Where is that $100 million reallocated to? Which were the logical reasons to cut funding from the people in the minor caste of society?<br /> <br /> Upon visiting the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service&rsquo;s website, the most recent press release was titled &lsquo;No cut in budget for the Students&rsquo; Loan Bureau&rsquo;. This publication confirmed that the SLB is earmarked approximately $2.9 billion for the fiscal year 2017/18. Also outlined was that for the fiscal year 2016/17, a similar amount was assigned to them along with an additional $100 million in grant funds from the HEART Trust/NTA which accumulates to $3 billion for SLB in 2016/17. This contribution, the release noted, is not recurrent for 2017/18.<br /> <br /> So, I certainly respect the prompt letter to editor to what would have indeed been such a counterproductive act by the Government. It shows your true commitment to youth advocacy. However, next time, unearth facts first. My pitch to the Government is to fill that gap that now stands. Surely $100 million can be positioned for human capital development and training towards achieving Jamaica&rsquo;s economic growth targets. <br /> <br /> The SLB will then maintain its usual capacity to assist both Thompson and my fellow youth who aspire to attain post-secondary qualifications and a happy day in August 2017 it shall be.<br /> <br /> Shinay Ford<br /> <br /> ford.shinay@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12982051/204956_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM Respect for the rule of law http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Respect-for-the-rule-of-law_93504 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Lord Anthony Gifford, in his public piece &lsquo;Human rights and the Tambourine Army&rsquo;, shared his views on the prosecution of Latoya Nugent for malicious communication using a computer.<br /> <br /> He argued that: &ldquo;We live under the rule of law, and the justice system should be there to ensure that crimes are reported and investigated, and the perpetrators punished. The presumption of innocence means that we should not label people as guilty until they have been so found after a fair trial. But the system is creaking. Cases take ages to be heard. Most judges do their best to do justice, but the ordeals faced by both victims and accused on the road to justice are often intolerable.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> This reasoning has contradictory undertones and may encourage extrajudicial actions.<br /> <br /> Despite the overwhelming challenges, we are expected to utilise the competent authority (the courts) to declare an accused&rsquo;s guilt.<br /> <br /> It is because we live by the rule of law, and that we have a justice system to punish criminals, why victims of abuse should respect due process and let the law take its course.<br /> <br /> The danger is that when people disregard an accused&rsquo;s right to the presumption of innocence, and publicly label them as criminals, then that constitutes prejudice.<br /> <br /> Complaints were reportedly made against Nugent by those whom she alleged to be sex abusers. She was charged under section 9 of the Cybercrimes Act, which states: &ldquo;(1) A person commits an offence if that person uses a computer to send to another person any data (whether in the form of a message or otherwise) &mdash; (a) that is obscene, constitutes a threat or is menacing in nature; and (b) with the intention to harass any person or cause harm, or the apprehension of harm, to any person or property.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Since the system is a disgrace, then we must urgently fix it so that it becomes efficient and effective in supporting us. There can be no justification for crafting our own definition and methods of &lsquo;justice&rsquo; in the context of the rule of law.<br /> <br /> In Chambers v Director of Public Prosecutions [2012] EWHC 2157, Judge, LCJ reasoned: &ldquo; ...it is inconceivable that grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, or menacing messages sent in [this] way would not be potentially unlawful.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> It is the alleged menacing actions of the accused that is being criminalised, not free speech per se. In light of the grave misconceptions, the Cybercrimes Act should be amended to make it specific as to the chargeable offences.<br /> <br /> Menacing messages communicated using a computer, with the intent to cause harm to another, which could potentially incite a breach of the peace and/or public order, warrants criminal sanctions, and is appropriately prosecuted under section 9 of the Act.<br /> <br /> We must show due respect for the rule of law and consideration for others.<br /> <br /> Dujon Russell<br /> <br /> dujon.russell@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12038540/legal_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 2:00 AM Can Phillips fix it? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Can-Phillips-fix-it_93502 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> On Sunday, March 26, 2017 Peter Phillips will take over the leadership of the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) but, like Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Phillips will be nothing new &mdash; same old.<br /> <br /> Dr Peter Phillips was general secretary of the PNP from 1991 to 1994. Many say he was parachuted by then leader Michael Manley. He ran for chairmanship of the party in 1992 and was whipped by &lsquo;Chairman for Life&rsquo; Robert Pickersgill. He was vice-president of the PNP from 1999 to 2008. Phillips also ran for leadership of the party in 2006 and 2008.<br /> <br /> My point is that Phillips has been around. He has been there for over two decades. Portia Simpson Miller is not the only one to be blamed for the PNP losing its way. Phillips is also responsible.<br /> <br /> We should remember that he failed miserably during his term as security minister, as in 2005 Jamaica became known as the murder capital of the world. His tenure as finance minister was helped greatly by low oil prices and the International Monetary Fund.<br /> <br /> Based on his past, can we be assured that Phillips can fix his party that has degenerated so badly? Can Phillips keep prosperity going in Jamaica?<br /> <br /> Teddylee Gray<br /> <br /> teddylee.gray@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13710010/264357_90463_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM &lsquo;Nuh mash up Champs&rsquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/-Nuh-mash-up-Champs-_93313 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Mi a beg onnu, nuh mash up Champs,&rdquo; which has been described elsewhere as &ldquo;arguably the highest quality Jamaican product of international standard &mdash; a veritable oasis of excellence&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> I will always consider winning the Class 2 discus event at Champs in 1959 for the victorious Jamaica College (JC) team as the greatest achievement in my life.<br /> <br /> I know Michael Clarke very well from his days at JC when, under his guidance, we won Champs for five years. Clarke knows how much I admire and respect him. I know Neil Harrison less well, but from all accounts, he is a fine man, and quite obviously an excellent coach.<br /> <br /> I do not know the headmasters of Calabar High School and Kingston College, but I am certain they are both fine and respectable men. Nor do I know the presidents of the parent-teachers&rsquo; associations of both schools. However, I implore these six individuals to hold a meeting immediately, moderated by someone agreeable, outside the fraternities of both schools. The meeting should work out a modus vivendi that ensures that Champs 2017 proceeds with the participation of Calabar High School and without any incident that would tarnish the image of this wonderful, unique, culturally and globally significant event that has produced stalwarts like Norman Manley, Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, Lindy Delapenha, Donald Quarrie, Usain Bolt, Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell, Shelly-Ann Fraser, and Elaine Thompson.<br /> <br /> I am looking to you, Clarke, to be very active in promoting a sucessful outcome of this meeting.<br /> <br /> There must be no booing of our young brother, who is from the continent from which the ancestors of 92 per cent of Jamaicans came. The two schools should appoint student wardens to keep in check their overzealous colleagues in the National Stadium at Champs.<br /> <br /> A different but related question is why, with close to 100 schools participating, only three or four schools have a realistic chance of winning Boys&rsquo; Champs &mdash; a situation that has existed for far too long. Personally, I would love to see Spot Valley High School &mdash; a place and school of which I had not heard until two years ago at Champs &mdash; and Petersfield High School win Champs. I declare a bias for the latter, being a proud Westmorelite. Perhaps, the sponsors of Champs might wish to consider this question and put in place corrective measures. <br /> <br /> Patrick Robinson<br /> <br /> The Hague<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13229403/221608__w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Portia&rsquo;s legacy: She did no harm http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Portia-s-legacy--She-did-no-harm_93312 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It&rsquo;s been said that comparisons are odious. But before the sun sets on the discourse about Portia Simpson Miller&rsquo;s legacy may I offer a perspective which may be somewhat different from current chatter.<br /> <br /> If one were to judge her solely on the basis of what good she did during her 40-plus years, even her fiercest boosters would have to admit that her contribution &mdash; even such as stabilising the economy &mdash; pales alongside those of Michael Manley&rsquo;s social policy legislation or international economic vision, Edward Seaga&rsquo;s building of major national institutions, and PJ Patterson&rsquo;s major infrastructural initiatives.<br /> <br /> But I prefer to ask this: How much harm, particularly lasting harm, did she do? Judge her on that basis.<br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t recall any major capital flight on five flights a day to Miami, any ignoring of the &lsquo;territorial imperative&rsquo; and alienation of a trading partner and origin of remittances with overblown &ldquo;mountaintop&rdquo; rhetoric.<br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t recall any maxing out a US president&rsquo;s no-limit credit card to import luxuries and run up debt &ldquo;so that the people could feel good about themselves again&rdquo;. I don&rsquo;t recall the heating up of partisan political rhetoric leading to 800 deaths in an election year. I don&rsquo;t recall a dozen or so local banks failing on her watch and 40,000 businesses &ldquo;Finsaced&rdquo; &mdash; a catastrophe which, more than any ideological posturing, still leaves its lasting effect on the economy.<br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t recall any harbouring of a fugitive from the long arm of the law. I don&rsquo;t recall any breach, serial or otherwise, of International Monetary Fund agreements.<br /> <br /> She promised no great overarching vision. She delivered no unforgettable speeches. Her leadership style of delegating responsibility to ministers was sharply at odds with Jamaicans&rsquo; everlasting search for yet another messiah.<br /> <br /> But where was her heart and passion? It is best exemplified by just one example: Her determination to rehabilitate as many of those abominable primary school pit latrines, some dating as far back as the 1930s, which poor people&rsquo;s children have been forced to use.<br /> <br /> Those truly were pockmarks on the face of a nation. It required no grand vision nor lofty rhetoric to see that odious abomination and take action to fix it.<br /> <br /> Thanks, Portia.<br /> <br /> Errol W A Townshend<br /> <br /> Ontario, Canada<br /> <br /> ewat@rogers.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13509995/225907_74531_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Welcome reduction in SLB interest rate http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Welcome-reduction-in-SLB-interest-rate_93253 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> During the past few weeks the 2017/18 national budget debate has found its way into the conversations of most Jamaicans. Labelling it as a &lsquo;journey to prosperity&rsquo; Finance Minister Audley Shaw, in his presentation, indicated that the development of our human resource must become a priority, with education as the vehicle to reach this destination.<br /> <br /> According to the government website<br /> <br /> www.JamStats.gov.jm, the gross enrolment rate at the tertiary level has been steadily decreasing. The last statistics read 28.9 per cent enrolment at the tertiary level coming from a peak of 33.1 per cent in 2011. Unfortunately, the reduction in the number of students enrolling at the tertiary level may be attributed to the rapidly increasing costs of attending university. Tuition costs, particularly at our national universities, have been on the rise since 2013.<br /> <br /> The Students&rsquo; Loan Bureau has been the main source of funding for many students who find it difficult to fund the cost of tertiary education up front. Thankfully, the Government has not only changed the method of calculating loan repayments to charging interest on the reducing balance, but has also slashed the interest rates to an all-time low of six per cent. These developments are welcomed by many current and prospective borrowers as they will lift a significant burden from their minds.<br /> <br /> These bold changes are nothing less than long-term investments in the human capital of Jamaica, which will undoubtedly result in sustainable growth and development in Jamaica. The greatest return that our university graduates can give the taxpayers of Jamaica on this investment is to contribute to the revolving loan scheme by working steadfastly and wisely in the formal Jamaican workforce so that others can join us on the journey to prosperity.<br /> <br /> Kinson Daniel Case<br /> <br /> Former students&rsquo; union vice-president<br /> <br /> University of Technology, Jamaica<br /> <br /> kinsoncase@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/7740705/SLB_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Tourism product is all Jamaica http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tourism-product-is-all-Jamaica_93198 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> In response to Omar Robinson&rsquo;s comments in the Jamaica Observer, words to the effect of &ldquo;keep the TEF separate from Consolidated Fund&rdquo;, I must add a few points.<br /> <br /> Robinson, who is currently president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), opposes the use of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) outside of tourism. On the contrary, I believe the TEF should benefit all Jamaica, we are the reason tourists visit.<br /> <br /> The TEF Act was passed in 2004 and is funded from a tax (or fee) paid by incoming airline passengers as well as cruise ship passengers to fund the development of the tourism sector and improve the overall tourist experience. A large chunk of this fund is also attributed to the many returning Jamaican residents who visit the island regularly and desperately want to see Jamaica improve and prosper.<br /> <br /> I agree with Gordon &ldquo;Butch&rdquo; Stewart&rsquo;s suggestion to allow Government to use from this fund, but only if there is full accountability and funds are used for national development and improving the social well-being of citizens, health, education and social services especially.<br /> <br /> There is widespread poverty in Jamaica, which impacts crime, a deterrent to tourism. Surely the JHTA is aware of that. The country is also heavily indebted and tied to the International Monetary Fund, which strangles national development and any hopes of improving the country&rsquo;s infrastructure and services due to lack of funds. If necessary, the TEF Act should be amended to allow Government to use from this fund for other purposes besides tourism.<br /> <br /> According to Robinson, &ldquo;50 per cent is used to market the destination, while the other 50 per cent is used to maintain and develop the tourism product&rdquo;. I should point out, the tourism product is not simply hotels and attractions, it is all of Jamaica &mdash; its culture, people, way of life, music, and so much more. If some of these funds is invested outside of tourism to improve Jamaica, we all benefit, visitors and citizens alike. Look at what is happening with Cornwall Regional Hospital, neglected and in dire need of repairs for years, to the point where it is now functioning under capacity. Many hospitals don&rsquo;t have adequate equipment, supplies, etc. Some schools are rundown; we need more classrooms.<br /> <br /> While I believe in consultation, JHTA must not be selfish. We must realise that a large percentage of profits from tourism doesn&rsquo;t stay in Jamaica, as many of these properties are owned by foreign entities. This is why, despite the surge in tourism, we hardly see any change in the economy. It is time to change that. We all should benefit from tourism.<br /> <br /> P Chin<br /> <br /> chin_p@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13543565/174613_77262_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Garfield Higgins is right! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Garfield-Higgins-is-right-_93254 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> If Michael Manley&rsquo;s devotees expected him to return to the socialist path in 1989 he immediately disabused them of that notion by stating emphatically, &ldquo;The agenda of the 70s is dead.&rdquo; He had been a great dream merchant but he had come awake unlike Hugh Dunbar, who criticises Garfield Higgins, and unlike the other Manley devotees, like Lance Neita and Michael Burke.<br /> <br /> The socialist approach to political economy is fundamentally unsound because government&rsquo;s command cannot match the magic of the market, and what Jamaica got from Manley was roughly 20 per cent economic decline, 25 per cent reduction in the people&rsquo;s standard of living, and a ruined bauxite industry that should make Michael Manley&rsquo;s name live in infamy. Instead of negotiating increased taxes and royalties, as would have been normal, he imposed a levy, and we were left with a shell. For the US$4 billion extracted in levy payments there is precious little to show. And all he had to offer was excuses for his failures. I remember that bit of graffiti: IMF= Is Manley Fault.<br /> <br /> I am at a loss to find good reason to lionise Manley. His devotees argue that he brought &ldquo;consciousness&rdquo;. We didn&rsquo;t need him to do that. That was Marcus Garvey&rsquo;s gift.<br /> <br /> Orville Brown<br /> <br /> Bronx, New York, USA<br /> <br /> thewriter.brown@gmail.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12926877/filename_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Tax break or burden? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tax-break-or-burden-_93225 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It is that time of the year again when Jamaicans brace for the worst. It is a time at which Jamaicans have got accustomed to being sad. A time when the trust is betrayed.<br /> <br /> The budget debate is not over in the country&rsquo;s Parliament and already the mountain of taxes is hard to climb. The Government has employed an underhanded tactic of indirect taxes that is turning out to be worse than direct taxes. They made sure that the taxes were strategic, as there is no escaping them. This makes you wonder if there is a difference between direct and indirect taxes.<br /> <br /> There has been an increase in the special consumption tax on fuel, imposition of general consumption tax on group health insurance, an increase on motor vehicle-licensing fees, and the reduction of the threshold on the taxable usage on electricity. Minister of Finance Audley Shaw tabled the increase of over $13 billion in new taxes before the House of Representative on March 9, 2017, and this all comes at a time when workers are anticipating the second portion of their election PAYE tax break promise.<br /> <br /> Light is now being shone on the expressions, &ldquo;A promise is a comfort to a voter,&rdquo; and there are &ldquo;tricks in politics&ldquo;. The round of tax increases imposed will have a domino effect on prices, further eroding the already meagre stipend with which to budget.<br /> <br /> The burden of taxes is breaking taxpayers&rsquo; bank books and they fear increases in bus and taxi fares, ground produce, and the many affiliated goods and services. This is not looking good, even as the unions get ready to approach the bargaining table for wage negotiations for their members. Don&rsquo;t be surprised if the Government waves the white flag of wage freeze. This is really a burden for a promised break.<br /> <br /> Hezekan Bolton<br /> <br /> h_e_z_e@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12866821/197288__w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Pay the BPO tax http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Pay-the-BPO-tax_93209 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I totally support the Government&rsquo;s 12.5 per cent tax on the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.<br /> <br /> There are labour, overhead and other synergistic savings for these entities&rsquo; corporate structure when they locate here. In theory, if they are from the US, where the corporate tax rate is about 39 per cent, they would receive a tax credit from the US revenue authorities for the tax paid in Jamaica at 12.5 per cent (39 per cent less the 12.5 per cent) and pay the difference as US taxes.<br /> <br /> Now, more in theory, if they pay no Jamaican tax at all, unless their is a tax sparing provision in the treaty, then they pay US tax at the full rate, as they have no Jamaican taxes to credit against their US liability. I only know of one such negotiated special provision and it was by Edward Seaga &mdash; a UK/Jamaica treaty, I believe.<br /> <br /> However, this is the theory. In practice, the savings earned by having back office operations here is not often routed back to the US immediately for exposure to US taxes. And if the structure is legally correct, that profit can float in a tax haven tax-free for years. That is the cold, hard truth.<br /> <br /> I have no sympathy for the BPO sector. It costs our Government money to educate our English speakers, to maintain roads, prosecute those who would steal lead sheets from your operations. Be a corporate citizen and pay your taxes without griping.<br /> <br /> Susan Allen<br /> <br /> susanallen112@gmail.com<br /> <br /> Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Portia&rsquo;s parting shot http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Portia-s-parting-shot_93236 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It was a hard-hitting, yet respectful final budget debate presentation befitting the exit of a former prime minister whose unyielding concern and advocacy for the welfare of the less fortunate in our society is etched in her lengthy political career.<br /> <br /> Of course, &ldquo;Sista P&rdquo; is entitled to speak on behalf of those among us from whom she sprang. She is also entitled to join forces with an artiste such as Bounty Killer in speaking up on behalf of the poor. So much so her shout out that, &ldquo;Ah no mi seh so, ah Bounty seh so,&rdquo; fully sums up her parliamentary message to the Government of the day, delivered in Gordon House on Thursday, March 16, 2017.<br /> <br /> It was a lasting parting shot coming from someone who has experienced, and would surely appreciate, the drama and the power that are wrapped up in the expression &ldquo;ah no mi seh soh...&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The long-required economic platform that was erected by the Government that she led from 2012 to 2016 also entitles us to say that Portia Simpson Miller, by no means perfect, has clearly delivered.<br /> <br /> And history will undoubtedly record and provide ample corroboration that &ldquo;ah no wi alone seh soh&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> A J Nicholson<br /> <br /> nicholsonaj1@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13713891/Portia-Simpson-Miller--2---1-_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Please, fix Spanish Town Road! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Please--fix-Spanish-Town-Road-_93204 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I wish to register my disgust at the poor condition of Spanish Town Road.<br /> <br /> The road is riddled with potholes and many who traverse the roadway now realise that, after going through the stoplight at the Weymouth Drive turn-off, your safest and best bet is to keep well right on the three-lane roadway as much as possible. Unfortunately, for me, I learnt this the hard way recently, after bursting both tyres on the left side of my car, having connected with a fearsome crater in the vicinity of the Riverton City community which, by the way, is poorly lit.<br /> <br /> You can imagine my despair at being immobile with my two small children and a female friend in the car and faced with the prospect of having to change not one, but two tyres, especially when, like most people, I only had one spare. Thanks be to God this story has a good ending. I dialled 119 and spoke apologetically &mdash; was this a real emergency? &mdash; and sought assistance from the police, who came within 15 minutes and took me to a tyre shop on Molynes Road to get one tyre repaired, while I urged my female colleague to remain in the locked car with the children. To cut the story short, one tyre was vulcanised while the other is useless. I will now have to buy a new tyre.<br /> <br /> I wish to say a big thank you to the lady and two men who were first on the scene to offer assistance. Also, gratitude to my colleague, her friend and her parents, who ensured the children remained safe while I was getting the tyre repaired. And to constables Thomas and Daley of the St Andrew South police division, as well as the 119 operator who sent help. Thanks also to an elderly resident of the community who, my colleague tells me, kept checking to make sure they were doing OK.<br /> <br /> Finally, as a motor vehicle owner, consumer of electricity, petrol, and everything else that attracts General Consumption Tax (refer to 2017/18 tax package) I believe the least the Government can do is repair the roadways within a reasonable time frame, especially one as frequently traversed as Spanish Town Road. In short, just &ldquo;give wi good road fi drive pon, please&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> Kiana Walker<br /> <br /> Spanish Town, St Catherine<br /> <br /> zednem.aka@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/11620049/Riverton-Fire_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM A great piece http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/A-great-piece_93231 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Desmond Allen&rsquo; s article in the Friday, March 10, 2017 issue of the Jamaica Observer, &lsquo;Command performance; finance minister puts concern for youth at centre of budget presentation&rsquo; was a great piece. Glad that he drove home Audley Shaw&rsquo;s point.<br /> <br /> A lot more has to be done for our young people, many of whom are going in the wrong direction. The underdevelopment of our young people is a crisis that needs serious attention. Our young people are some of our greatest resources, and much more must be done to prevent them from heading in the directions of the cemetery and the penitentiary.<br /> <br /> I listened to his budget presentation in its entirety and I must hasten to say that that aspect of his presentation I found most touching. As he highlighted his journey to academic height I reflected on my own, similar journey from Jamaica to the USA. And now that Allen has driven home the point, at some time in the near future I will be penning and submitting an article commenting on my experience in the hope that it will assist in motivating fellow Jamaicans here and there.<br /> <br /> George Lawson,<br /> <br /> Bronx, New York, USA<br /> <br /> mrgeelaws@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13707654/Audley-Shaw--3-_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Caught between the law and dreams http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Caught-between-the-law-and-dreams_92976 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> During the past weeks I have been following up on the discussion concerning Kingston College&rsquo;s newly acquired Ugandan athlete Aryamanya Rodgers who, according to Jamaica Observer reports, found it difficult to travel to Jamaica, not because of funding, but rather due to travel issues which caused him to be delayed for the new academic year for both school and sports.<br /> <br /> Sadly, I know well of these situations, especially when working with missionaries from as far as Poland, Philippines, Uganda, and Kenya, who have left family and homeland to serve our people here in Jamaica and had to encounter travel ordeals while seeking a flight through Germany to Montego Bay.<br /> <br /> However, the argument against allowing Rodgers to participate in the upcoming boys&rsquo; championships is that, according to the law/rule of Inter-secondary Schools&rsquo; Sports Association: &ldquo;An athlete must be registered before September 30 in order to participate in the championships.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> While rules are there to govern us so as to ensure everything goes well, we must also practise prudence and charity, especially in the field of sports, and knowing well of the situation young Rodgers went through so as to seek after his dreams in the land of great athletes.<br /> <br /> I am not saying that we should relax the rule or throw it out but rather, in a situation like Rodgers&rsquo;, we should extend the hand of mercy where it is indeed needed. We must also be aware that participating in Champs is something that happens once in our youthful years to bring glory to our respective schools, and indeed ourselves. In the spirit of Champs, in the spirit of charity and youthfulness, I therefore ask those who oppose Rodgers&rsquo; participation to allow him to foster such dreams so that they can become reality in the land of possibilities.<br /> <br /> Roger R Goodwill<br /> <br /> Roman Catholic seminarian<br /> <br /> Archdiocese of Kingston<br /> <br /> roger_goodwill14@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13719734/265146_91383_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM They always raid NHT... at least this time I&rsquo;m getting &lsquo;1.5&rsquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/They-always-raid-NHT----at-least-this-time-I-m-getting--1-5-_93092 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> The first raid on the National Housing Trust (NHT) by the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) Government was in 2002 for the Emancipation Park development.<br /> <br /> Then $5 billion was taken from the NHT to finance the education sector transformation programme.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in 2006, then took $15 billion for the Inner-city Housing Project.<br /> <br /> In 2008, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) attempted to take $45 million for a drought relief programme.<br /> <br /> In 2009, the JLP attempted a raid of $500 million to consolidate the budget before the International Monetary Fund agreement, but was advised by the solicitor general that it was illegal.<br /> <br /> From 2013-2016 a total of $45.6 billion was taken for budgetary support.<br /> <br /> Now, in 2017, the JLP continues to take $11.4 billion annually. This time under a new IMF programme and towards the &lsquo;$1.5-million tax break&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> The PNP spends NHT money for us, while the JLP lets us spend the money for ourselves.<br /> <br /> The NHT rakes in billions annually in profit, then sits on it. While I don&rsquo;t support any government raiding it, if no money was there to be taken the governments would&rsquo;ve found somewhere else to raid.<br /> <br /> According to a population and housing census (2011) by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 21 per cent of our population squat, and some 20 per cent of our population pay rent. There are over 450,000 NHT contributors and some 300,000 do not qualify for real benefits. Finance Minister Audley Shaw said in his budget presentation that 397,083 people won&rsquo;t contribute to PAYE anymore, that&rsquo;s more the 129,000 people who didn&rsquo;t contribute to PAYE back in 2015 when Dr Peter Phillips increased the threshold from $557,232 to $592,800.<br /> <br /> Under the JLP&rsquo;s $1.5-million tax break over 250,000 people stand to benefit in total, the JLP Administration wants $11.4 billion to help fund the &lsquo;1.5&rsquo;. As an NHT contributor I&rsquo;d rather that, because I&rsquo;m gonna benefit from the tax break. So this time I&rsquo;m actually getting something, since it&rsquo;s hard to negotiate the NHT red tape for a guy like me to qualify. So that extra money in my pocket can be used or saved for the future.<br /> <br /> Under the PNP the money was spent on things like the education transformation, but also sweetheart deals and wastage. This time I know the full story.<br /> <br /> Teddylee Gray<br /> <br /> teddylee.gray@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13079130/210492_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM