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Finance minister receives high marks from business leaders

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Several business leaders are of the view that Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, acquitted himself well in his maiden presentations in the just concluded 2019/20 budget debate.

The minister delivered the opening and closing presentations in the two-week long debate in the House of Representatives, from March 7 to 20, during which he outlined details of the Government's $835.2 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on April 1.

Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) president, Metry Seaga, is among those from whom Dr Clarke has received high marks.

“He came across as sincere and as someone knowing his portfolio. His delivery was not in any way, shape or form disrespectful. It was just an honest, clear indication of where we are going and how we are going to get there… and I was very impressed. His delivery, his sincerity, his knowledge of the subject, could not have been better,” the JMEA president noted.

Seaga said that in cricketing parlance, “Dr Clarke scored a flawless, chanceless century with the greatest of ease, stroking the ball to all parts of the ground and beyond.”

Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) President, David Wan, said he was equally impressed with Dr Clarke noting that the Budget was “well presented”.

“He was able, I believe, to connect with all citizens, thereby enabling everyone at all levels to understand what is being embarked on by the Government. So top marks to him on that. For his first presentation, he did a very good job,” Wan told JIS News.

Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) President, Hugh Johnson, concurs with his private sector counterparts, noting that he was particularly pleased with the provisions outlined for the Micro, Small and Medium-size Enterprises (MSMEs).

Approximately $1.8 billion will be made available for loans to the sector, while another $200 million in equity financing is being provided to very early stage, scalable and investment-ready start-ups under a Side Car Funding Facility, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), among other deliverables.

“We are very thankful for this move, which we believe is one in the right direction. We commend the Minister, because we have been calling for these actions for many years, and we are happy that there was someone who was listening,” Johnson added.

Other notable budgetary provisions announced include: a proposed increase in the General Consumption Tax (GCT) threshold from $3 million to $10 million; abolition of the Minimum Business Tax, and Asset Tax for non-financial businesses; revisions to the Student Loan Bureau's client borrowing regime; and the transfer tax of real estate sales from five to two per cent.

In addition, ad valorem Stamp Duty payable on any instrument pursuant to the Stamp Duty Act will be replaced with a flat stamp duty of $100 per document/parcel related to transactions valued below $500,000, and $5,000 per document related to transactions valued at $500,000 and more.

— JIS


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