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Aubyn Hill upbeat about high revenue intake

Thursday, February 08, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Deputy President of the Upper House, Senator Aubyn Hill, has welcomed the news that Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) is on course to exceed the $283.4 billion in collections projected for 2017/18.

The agency reported recently that it has collected $207.7 billion in taxes for the April to December 2017 period, which represents $12 billion more than the target of $195.7 billion that was set by the TAJ.

“That better-than-planned tax collection means we can borrow less and meet agreed targets with our multilateral lending institutions,” Hill said in his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate today.

He added that the performance by the TAJ “brings a smile to my lips because we told all who would listen, when we put in the blessing of that now famous $1.5 million tax relief that tax collection would increase”.

Hill, who is the executive director of the Economic Growth Council (EGC), said the economy is performing well, with inflation at decades-low levels of about five per cent.

“This means that the pressure on businesses to raise prices on poor people is low. This sustained low inflation rate means that the depreciation pressure on the Jamaican dollar is significantly reduced, especially if we are able to maintain that low inflation rate,” he pointed out.

He noted that the administration continues to run fiscal surpluses, which will likely serve to keep inflation and interest rates low, moving lending rates from banks and other lenders to single digits.

Hill told the House that more than 40,000 jobs were created in the last year, and the country recorded its lowest unemployment figures in a decade, falling to 10.4 per cent in October from a high of 15.3 per cent in 2013.

Youth unemployment also tumbled to its lowest levels in 10 years.

“Youth unemployment fell 12 per cent from a high of 37 per cent in 2013 to 25 per cent in October 2017. That figure is still too high, but no one can question if the youth unemployment figure is going in the right direction,” he said.

Furthermore, he said the Net International Reserves (NIR) currently stands at US$3.2 million, covering at least 40 weeks of imports.

“(This) is just below the highest level of US$3.7 billion, which it reached in August 2017, the highest NIR figure since 2002,” he said.

Hill pointed out that international rating agency, Fitch, has affirmed the improvement in Jamaica's rating to B and enhanced the country's outlook from stable to positive.

“Indeed, recent survey data also reaffirmed the record-high business confidence levels in the Jamaican economy,” he said.

The State of the Nation Debate gives Senators the opportunity to address issues of national importance. It also gives Cabinet ministers in the Senate an opportunity to address their portfolio responsibilities while highlighting government policies and programmes.

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