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Bunting: This is the bitter medicine

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Desk coordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 15, 2013    

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NATIONAL Security Minister Peter Bunting says that now is the "foretold time of bitter medicine" as he defended the Government's multibillion-dollar tax package announced on Tuesday.

At the same time, Bunting — who was speaking at Sagicor Jamaica Limited (Liguanea Branch) annual sales awards at the Wyndham Hotel in New Kingston yesterday — took a swipe at sections of the private sector which had expressed disappointment about the $16-billion tax package.

He said he was "perplexed" by comments from "private sector leaders... that they were surprised" at the tax package given that "it was an integral part of the discussions of actions required" in order to secure a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"It's not an easy time. It's a tough time. One person foretold it as the time of bitter medicine and we are here," said Bunting, who is the minister of national security.

He was seemingly making reference to statements by then Prime Minister Andrew Holness leading up to the 2011 general elections, which many believed led to his Jamaica Labour Party's massive loss at the polls.

Holness was at the time hinting at the drastic measures needed to be taken to reduce the country's massive debt and move the economy forward.

Yesterday, Bunting maintained that tough action was needed at this time to get the economy moving and that now is not the time to procrastinate.

"The private sector spoke to more consultation, but the truth of the matter is that consultation by itself is not going to make things more palatable," he emphasised.

On Tuesday, Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips announced the new tax package in Gordon House. The new revenue measures will affect property tax, the General Consumption Tax on telephone calls and phone cards, stamp duty and transfer taxes, some customs fees, winnings on several chance games, education tax, among other items.

The announcement came hours after the launch of the National Debt Exchange — the second to have happened in three years and which seeks to lower debt costs.

It has been met with criticisms from private sector leaders and the Opposition JLP who said that they felt betrayed as Government gave them no indication of the pending tax increases when they met with senior ministers on Monday.

There was also no mention of the increases during Monday night's joint telecast by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Dr Peter Phillips.

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