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House to debate NHT, Lottery Scam bills today

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 05, 2013    

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THE Government plans to debate the National Housing Trust (Special Provisions) Act, 2013 when the House of Representatives meets this afternoon at Gordon House.

The Special Provisions Act is one of two Bills on the agenda for today's sitting, the other being the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, which has provisions for dealing with the lottery scam.

The NHT Bill proposes to give the Government the right to draw down funds from the Trust, at the will and determination of the minister of finance, until March 31, 2017. It was specifically brought to Parliament to ensure Government's drawdown of the first tranche of a $45.6 billion grant over the next four years from the NHT to finance the budget.

The tabling of the Bill last week by Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips fulfilled his assurance that the Government would not be stopped in seeking to access the funding from the Trust. Phillips had made it clear that the Government was prepared to alter legislation governing the NHT, in order to protect the planned withdrawals from the Trust's reserves.

He has insisted that using the funds would prevent additional taxation measures to achieve a 7.5 per cent primary surplus, targeted for 2013/14 as part of a likely new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) Bill, or the Lottery Scam Bill, seeks to strengthen the efforts of law enforcement to effectively combat the illicit lottery scam, by making specific provisions for dealing with offences relating to advanced fee fraud and other fraudulent transactions.

The Proceeds of Crime Act is also to be amended, by ministerial order, to apply to the offences under the Act proposed in this Bill.

Other matters on today's agenda include a statement from Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke on developments on Pedro Cays, while Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson will pilot the National Health Fund (Tribunal) Regulations (2013) Resolution.

The House is also expected to complete debating a Private Members Motion from Opposition MP Everald Warmington, proposing that the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) stop paying members who are nominated by the political parties.

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