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Holness: J'cans will not accept further tax increases

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 09, 2014    

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JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) leader Andrew Holness said Tuesday that the Opposition is putting the Government on alert that the message coming from the people is that they will not accept any further tax increases at this time.

Holness told the JLP's inaugural post-shadow cabinet press briefing at its headquarters on Belmont Road in Kingston that its representatives have been moving around the country, and was alerting the Government to what they have been hearing from the people.

"We are not just delivering a message from the people, we are saying that it is ill-advised for the Government to place any more taxes on the table at this time," Holness said.

He said that, where he has been around the country, he has found that, it is not that the people do not understand the problems, including the fragile nature of the economy, but there is a growing sense of militancy that, after two years, there does not seem to be any hope coming forward and that, in fact, the country is returning to "the bad days of the 1990s".

"An inflation rate of 10.5 per cent is worrying; an unemployment rate at 16 per cent is disturbing; our dollar at $107 (to the US dollar) is also worrying. What's happening now is that social tensions are increasing and, if the Government doesn't recognise it, the Government simply needs to look at the crime rate," the JLP leader said.

"Any more taxes will just add more pressure to the pressure cooker," he warned.

He said that it was time that the Government shift focus to stimulate the economy in order to generate growth, as current policies are "highly focused on a programme of austerity and contraction".

However, he assured the country that the JLP did not see itself operating in a role of "oppose, oppose, oppose", nor as anyone's "worst nightmare" and, therefore was "sounding the alarm" as well as making "strong suggestions to the Government.

He said that there is a need for the Government to pursue a growth agenda, but right now there was no focus on growth stimulation and, therefore, the current economic programme cannot create growth in the short term.

He suggested that the Government look at the construction sector, as an area to start stimulating the economy, as it can become an engine of growth.

Other speakers at the briefing were Opposition spokesman on industry, investment, commerce, mining and energy, Karl Samuda, who addressed the issues of energy/Petrojam and the proposed logistics hub; and agriculture spokesman, JC Hutchinson, who spoke on issues such as the Agro Parks.

Chair of the party's public relations committee, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said that the briefing -- which obviously mirrors the weekly Jamaica House Post Cabinet briefings -- would be held whenever necessary, either at Belmont Road or rural venues. However, she said that the shadow cabinet meetings will be a weekly feature for the party.

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