JAMAICA | Opposition says Finance Minister must apologise for misleading parliament

JAMAICA | Opposition says Finance Minister must apologise for misleading parliament

KINGSTON, March 22, 2022 - The Opposition PNP wants Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke to apologise for misleading the nation's parliament, having accused the Parliamentary Opposition of misleading Jamaicans in its contributions to the budget debate.

Closing the debate on Tuesday afternoon in the House of Representatives, Dr. Clarke argued that many of the figures presented by Opposition Leader Mark Golding and Opposition Spokesman on Finance Julian Robinson were erroneous, arguing that the government could afford to spend $40 billion more because of a projected $99 billion increase in tax revenues was faulty.

According to the Finance Miniaster, tax revenues contained in the fiscal policy paper tabled in the House projected tax revenues for 2022-2023 to be $671 billion while tax revenues for the 2021-2022 period were projected at $606 billion. 

"When I went to school...that difference was $65 billion, not 99 [billion dollars]. Can you imagine that? Coming here and telling the Jamaican people that tax revenues are up are going to be up by $99 billion and therefore you can afford this, when in fact you're wrong by $34 billion? Madam Speaker, dem nuh ready yet, nuh ready yet at all," asserted the minister.

However, the parliamentary Opposition in a statement this afternoon, said the Minister of Finance wrongfully accused the Opposition Leader of providing incorrect data in his presentation on the additional tax revenues the Government plans to raise.

The Opposition Leader correctly indicated that the Government plans to raise additional tax revenues of $99BN.

This figure comes from the tabled "Revenue Estimates 2022/23" document which shows that the Government plans to take in tax revenues of $671BN for the Financial Year 22/23, up from $572BN for theFinancial Year 21/22.

That is an additional $99BN which is on page 2 of the document tabled in Parliament the Opposition statement pointed out.

The Opposition is calling on the Minister of Finance to apologise for misleading the House and contradicting data from his own Ministry.

Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke chided the opposition for what he said were wrong figures.Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke chided the opposition for what he said were wrong figures.Dr. Clarke also took issue with the opposition's suggestion that the government is set to benefit from inflation.

The opposition had argued that the government would get more tax revenues as a result of rising prices for goods.

But Dr. Clarke pointed out that rising prices also means that government will also have to pay more for goods and services.

He also pointed out that, in the past, governments have raised taxes during periods of high inflation. 

"A high school student in economics knows that inflation increases expenses as well as revenues, and on a net basis, the government is often worse off. The opposition can't just look at one variable, because if inflation explained no new taxes, then you have to tell me why then, in the highest inflation year in 1991-92, did we have seven full pages of tax increases," the Finance Minister retorted.  

Additionally, Dr. Clarke dismissed the opposition's statements that the government will earn a windfall from the hike in the gas prices.

The opposition has been calling for relief for motorists from some of the taxes on gas.

But Dr. Clarke said the increase in gas prices does not automatically mean more revenues for the government as volumes purchased have been depressed. 

"The pace and momentum of Jamaica's economic recovery has been so strong that the opposition can be forgiven for forgetting that the overall economic activity is still lower than pre pandemic levels," said Dr. Clarke.

"So, the facts, Madam Speaker, are that the volume of fuel imports to Jamaica declined considerably during the pandemic...and they have not yet recovered to pre pandemic levels. And that is a simple fact. As a result, even with fuel prices where they are at this stage... the projections are still, that in the fiscal year 2021-2022, the government will take in less in fuel taxes than we did in 2019-2020, prior to the pandemic," he explained. 

Author’s Posts