SHOWING growing agitation, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will use today, St Valentine’s Day, to demonstrate there’s no love lost between it and the Government over whopping new taxes.
The JLP was yesterday among organisations which screamed foul, charging that the People’s National Party (PNP) Government had sneaked in a big tax package without warning, 24 hours after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips doubleteamed on national television to announce a precursor programme to a crucial agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Finance and Planning Spokesman Audley Shaw and Director of Communications Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange will tell journalists this morning how devastating they believe the $16.4-billion tax package will be in its impact on Jamaicans.
“The prime minister and the minister of finance spoke to the nation less than 24 hours before the new tax measures were announced, but made no effort to prepare the nation, or to give any warning of what was to be expected,” JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang complained in a news release a day after the Opposition walked out of the Parliament to protest Phillips’ tax package.
“They had been meeting with all stakeholders and, to our understanding, gave no indication of what was to come.
The Government's actions in Parliament yesterday were completely inconsistent with the Government’s calls for unity and cooperation and the nation’s current mood,” Chang declared.
He said the party was deeply concerned by the quality of the country’s governance and the deceptive nature of the Government, adding: “The Government’s recent actions represent a fundamental breach of trust between the Government and the people of Jamaica.
Their actions have damaged the relationship between the Government and almost every stakeholder group, including civil society, trade unions, the private sector and the Opposition.” While saying the JLP would not go down the path of being “the Government’s nightmare” — a swipe at Simpson Miller after the PNP’s 2007 loss to the JLP — Chang said his party would “not allow the government to use the JLP as an excuse for its failures”.
He said that the party was in the process of consulting with various stakeholders, including its supporters, to develop a plan of action in response to the Government’s actions.
“We have started consultations with our base and we plan in the coming days to have discussions with the private sector, trade unions and other groups,” said Chang.
Carol Narcisse’s Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) and the fledgling Citizens’ Action for Principle and Integrity (CAPI) also slammed the Government for keeping the tax plan out of the joint national broadcast, only to unleash it the next day.
“It is the trust factor that takes a beating.
How can anyone trust what a Government says when it speaks of taking the people into its confidence and turns around and does something like this”, Narcisse told a radio public affairs programme Tuesday evening.
“That is not keeping faith with the people.” CAPI, of which JLP activist Dennis Meadows and Hugh Fagan are convenors, expressed “shock at the Government's ‘Nicodemus’ approach to its introduction of its massive $16- billion tax package”.
In a press statement yesterday, CAPI said the tax had come after the Government reportedly met with key sector leaders, including the Opposition, prior to the joint national addresses “when it deliberately omitted to advise the public and stakeholders of its tax package”.
Meadows said the country was in the midst of “the greatest economic and fiscal crises in history” and the Government was engaging in “manipulative and deceptive practices which will only engender distrust among the very stakeholders whose support it needs to realise its economic structural objectives”.
“After the prime minister's and finance minister's addresses, CAPI was led to believe that the Government was making a genuine effort to be candid in its communication and therefore commended its effort.
However, the Government's vulgar and arrogant use of its majority to stealthily pass a tax package of $16 billion, without prior consultation or notification, we deem an action in bad faith which does not augur well for its effort to win support for the harsh prior actions pursuant to an IMF agreement.
This has given us cause to rethink our position,” Meadows said.