Opposition walks out of tax debate in protest

Opposition walks out of tax debate in protest

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

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OPPOSITION MPs walked out of yesterday's sitting of the House of Representatives after the Government refused to put off passage of new revenue measures tabled by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips.

But the protest did not deter Dr Phillips from proceeding to close the debate, even as the Opposition called a press briefing in its conference room at Gordon House to outline its objection to the $16.4-billion tax package.

Tempers flared as Opposition spokesman on finance Audley Shaw, in his contribution to the debate on the measures, condemned the Government as deceptive in not informing the Opposition at a meeting at Vale Royal on Monday, nor the public during a national broadcast by Phillips and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on Monday night of its intention to table the measures.

He denounced the revenue package as "massive and iniquitous" and said that it has far-reaching implications for the competitiveness of the economy at a time when it needed growth.

Shaw urged the Government to suspend the debate and allow the Opposition to review the measures and come back to the House Thursday with proposals. But Leader of Government Business Phillip Paulwell said that the Government intended to complete the debate yesterday.

Opposition members walked out of the room when Dr Phillips rose to close the debate, and retreated to the conference room where Opposition Leader Andrew Holness told journalists that his party acknowledged the magnitude of the economic problems facing the country, and has been trying to co-operate with the Government, but could not accept the package.

"The Opposition is of the view that these measures will have a negative effect on our economy," Holness said.

He explained that the Opposition had expected greater emphasis on tax reform, but instead was confronted with more taxes which will, in effect, kill growth in the economy.

He called on the Government to create an atmosphere of confidence and promote investments, but insisted that the tax package could not do that.

He said that the Opposition is always prepared to be strident and would continue to make its voice heard on the matter.

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