Don't cut GCT

Don't cut GCT

Opposition senator says savings to consumers from reduction in consumption tax not worth it

Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver. com

Saturday, December 07, 2019

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OPPOSITION Senator Andre Haughton yesterday criticised the appeal by his own party leader, Dr Peter Phillips, for a two percentage point reduction in the General Consumption Tax (GCT).

In his maiden contribution to the Senate's annual State of the Nation, Senator Haughton, an economist, suggested that the Opposition leader was “fiddling” with the figures when he made the suggestion, as was Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw when he suggested that it was worth consideration.

Our party leader tossed out a bait about reducing GCTby two percentage points, and I heard [Government] Senator Charles Sinclair, as well as Audley Shaw [suggesting that it should be taken into consideration] without breaking down the numbers,” Senator Haughton stated.

“Let me break up the numbers,” said Haughton.

“If we are to reduce GCT by two percentage points, meaning reduce it from 16.5 per cent to 14.5 per cent, it would cost the country $25 billion to $26 billion annually, assuming that every year we take in $200 billion from GCT. This two percentage point [reduction] is going to cost the country $26 billion! That is the average cost. Now what is the benefit to the average Jamaican consumer?

“I mean, if you buy something for $100 and you pay 14.5 per cent [GCT] you are going to save $2. If you buy something for $1,000, you are going to save $20. If you buy something for $10,000, you are going to save $200, and if you buy something for $100,000, you are going to save $2,000. Mr President, is this saving significant enough to ask Jamaicans to sacrifice $26 billion to achieve.

“We have to think more carefully about what our objectives are,” he said to loud cheers from government benches. “I have never been the advocate for the fiddling of numbers. I believe that whatever the cost we incur as a nation it must be to the full benefit of the country,” he added to more applause.

Senator Haughton also referred to several other issues affecting the country, including the exchange rate, for which he criticised politicians and academics who insist that the surge in the foreign exchange rate is not important.

He also criticised the lack of basic amenities in the public health institutions, and called for a more concerted effort to reverse the growing number of dengue fatalities.

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