CONTRIBUTION TO THE BUDGET DEBATE

Document Sample
CONTRIBUTION TO THE BUDGET DEBATE Powered By Docstoc
					                    1




   CONTRIBUTION TO THE BUDGET DEBATE




                   BY
      THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
THE MOST HONOURABLE PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER




         THURSDAY 30TH APRIL 2009
                                    2




SALUTATIONS


INTRODUCTION


Mr. Speaker,


Let me, at the very start of my presentation acknowledge your
stewardship of the proceedings of this Honourable House over the
nineteen months that you assumed the post of Speaker of this
noble national institution.


Members of this Honourable House, I want to first thank Almighty
God for providing me with yet another opportunity to participate in
the National Budget Debate process.


I want to thank my husband, whose friendship, partnership and
love strengthens my steps and my resolve to do more in the
service of the people of Jamaica.


I also want to thank the members of my family for their unending
love and support for which I will remain forever grateful.
                                  3


I also extend my sincere appreciation to my housekeeper, who is a
key member of my personal support team and a kind and loyal
friend.


Mr. Speaker,
I must also thank the people of Jamaica, my three Councillors, my
constituents and members of the People‟s National Party for their
continued love and support.


Let me also thank the members of staff of the Houses of the
Parliament. In particular Mrs. Heather Cooke, Clerk of the House
who is recuperating at home and recharging her batteries to rejoin
us in the House. I also acknowledge Ms. Valerie Curtis who has
ably carried out her role as Acting Clerk of the House.


I also acknowledge the staff at the Office of the Leader of the
Opposition and thank them for their assistance throughout the
year.


Mr. Speaker,
This budget debate takes place at a most crucial time in the life of
our people.


It comes against the background of what is described as the most
severe    economic    recession       being   faced   nationally   and
internationally since the Great Depression of the early 1930s.
                                   4


Today, fear taints the hope of many Jamaicans and deep anxiety
destroys our joy.


As Leader of the Opposition, I have a responsibility to critically
examine this budget as well as its impact on the various sectors of
our society.


This presentation therefore, will be about the people of Jamaica.


It will tell the story of the working class and the middle class.


It will tell the story of the working poor and the unemployed poor.



Indeed it will be about our farmers, our professionals – young and
old, as well as the micro, small, medium and large enterprises.


This presentation will be about the men, women, children, the
youth, the young adults, and the elderly and about persons with
disabilities.


Mr. Speaker,


This presentation is dedicated to the protection of the Jamaican
Family and the restoration of their hope.
                                  5




Never in the history of our country did our people have to contend
with such burdensome mortgages, punishing food cost, crushing
cost of medication, devastating energy and utility bills,     high
prices, increasing rents and leases, mounting tuition costs,
mounting debt,     suffocating interests on loans, wage freezes,
salary cuts, redundancies, and delayed minimum wage payments.


Standing here today speaks volumes to the fact that I am still very
optimistic about the future of this great country.


Our parents were convinced that we, their children, would do
much better than they had been able to do.


We would be better educated than they were and that we would
get better quality jobs than they had.


Just as this is the case Mr. Speaker, it was also intended that our
generation would improve the foundation laid by our parents and
so advance the development of future generations.


This progression has for centuries been the fuel of hope that was
passed on from one generation to the next and in most cases, this
most primary objective had been met.
                                  6


Mr. Speaker,


At this point in history where we find ourselves, that progression -
that continued development; our very hope is at great risk.


As we acknowledge the global financial crisis, we must also
properly assess and quantify the local component of the problems
with which we are faced.


No one could seriously participate in a discussion at this level
without those acknowledgements.


It is against that background, that I make my presentation.


The National Budget is to be considered as the nation‟s Blue Print
for development in the fiscal year for which it applies. More than a
combination of expenditure and revenue projections, the Budget
should be founded in a social framework that
centralizes and emphasizes the hopes and aspirations of the
people.


In the current context – the 2009/2010 budget as presented, is
incoherent and does not address the developmental needs of the
country in the wake of the financial crises.


It does not identify a way forward, and so it leaves the Jamaican
people unprotected as does not inspire hope.
                                 7




IMPACT OF THE BUDGET ON THE JAMAICAN PEOPLE


Mr. Speaker,


This year, the Government plans to spend JA$555 billion.


There are divergent views on this budget.


It is however unanimous that this budget includes the most
confusing tax package ever presented by a government in Free
and Independent Jamaica.


As I speak, we are still not clear on the full list of items to be
taxed.


Some people are saying that this budget is a “Three Card Trick”!


I say, since it is the people who will be required to finance this
budget, let them be the judge.
                                  8




ANALYSIS OF THE BUDGET


Mr. Speaker,


An analysis of the macro-economic indicators over the life of this
Administration reveals a very stark picture.


For this Fiscal Year the Government has: -


   Introduced a tax package of J$24.1 Billion following on a tax
     package of $5.4 Billion in the 08/09 fiscal year, making a
     grand total of 29.5 Billion since September 2007.


   Inflation has moved from 5.8% in September 2007 to 16%
     by the end of fiscal year 2007/08 and to 12.4% by the end
     of fiscal year 2008/09.


   In two years, interest rates have increased to over 20%,
     resulting in the Government having to pay $159 Billion as
     interest charges this year. This is $35 Billion more than the
     $124 Billion paid out last year.



   And the National Debt Stock has grown beyond the Trillion
     Dollar mark.
                                   9


  As Dr. Davies indicated in his presentation to this House on
  Tuesday –

   Consumer, Business and Investor Confidence has plummeted
     to an all time low;
   Unemployment, job losses and job cuts have become the
     order of the day;
   The Economy has contracted and is now in recession;
   There is instability in the Foreign Exchange Market          – the
     Dollar has lost almost 20% of its value in the last fiscal year;
   The Fiscal deficit has gone beyond 6% of GDP.


These results contradict the myth that was propagated by this
Administration that they would be better managers of the National
Economy.


Further,   these   results   are   largely   the   causes   of   poor
management, an unwillingness to accept reality or a protracted
inability to understand the complex issues of the global economy
and their implications for Jamaica.


In contrast, Mr. Speaker,


   In the last two years of our Administration, the total tax
     package was 1.7 Billion Dollars
   Inflation had fallen to 5.8%
                                 10


   Interest rates fell not once, not twice but four times to
     11.8% - The lowest in over thirty years!
   Poverty level fell below 9.9%
   Unemployment was down by 8.6%
   The total debt was below the Trillion Dollar mark.


Mr. Speaker,
That was management!


THE GOVERNMNET’S RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS
Mr. Speaker,
The Opposition Spokesman on Finance has already gone into some
detail regarding the inadequate response by this Administration to
various aspects of the global economic crisis.


It cannot be contradicted that the government was slow off the
mark in acknowledging that there would have been a severe
impact on the Jamaican Economy.


All Jamaicans can recall the conflicting statements by the Prime
Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Tourism about
the extent to which the international crisis would affect Jamaica
and our people.


Every time I recall the Minister of Finance, daring to suggest that
the recession in the United States of America would be beneficial
to the Jamaican Economy, I shudder.
                                11




That was truly a remarkable statement considering the amount of
information to the contrary.


Considering that the USA is our largest trading partner, it was
inconceivable that with the huge job losses, thousands of
foreclosures and the instability in the stock markets, that Jamaica
would not have been negatively impacted.


Shortly after that statement by the Minister, instability developed
in the foreign exchange market, resulting in the need to increase
interest rates.


Remittances started to decline and Jamaica experienced a fall out
in the bauxite/alumina sector. Yet members of the Government
continued to paint a picture of roses and daffodils, ignoring the
clear warnings of „danger ahead‟ as other governments had done.
                                12


IMPACT OF THE BUDGET ON THE JAMAICAN PEOPLE


THE STATE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS


Mr. Speaker,


The standard of living of the middle class has deteriorated beyond
all expectations during the last nineteen months.


This budget comes at a time when: -
   Many young professionals
   Teachers
   Nurses and doctors
   Journalists
   Public sector workers
   Members of the security forces
   Entrepreneurs
   Farmers
   Fisher Folk
   University graduates
   Household helpers, and
   Single parents


  are ALL faced with unprecedented challenges.
                                    13


Mr. Speaker,


These challenges include increased mortgage rates, and increased
costs for educating themselves and their children, increased cost
of food, transportation and utilities.


All this at a time when a wage freezes and salary cuts have been
imposed while taxes have been increased.


So I ask, what is there in this budget for Jamaica‟s Middle and
Working Classes?


Owning a home is the dream of every Jamaican. However the high
interest rate regime and the worsening economy are converting
that dream of owning a home to a nightmare.


The reality is that many Jamaicans are now losing their homes –
many live in fear of losing their homes and still others are doubtful
of ever owning their own home.


The young professional whose mortgage payment has been
increased as a result of this Administration‟s short-sighted policies
are having great difficulties coping.


The situation is worsened by the increase in the price of petrol as
a result of the gas tax and the consequential increases in the costs
of almost all goods and services.
                                  14


Mr. Speaker, that professional, if he or she works in the public
sector is further faced with a freeze of salary and benefits or, if in
the private sector, faces salary cuts.


Last year I warned of the dangers of increasing the interest on
NHT mortgages.


The consequence of that decision and the failure to respond
appropriately to the economic situation has made it very difficult
for contributors to afford housing through the NHT.


The most recent survey by the NHT shows that 80% of
contributors cannot afford the $3.5 million mortgage, even when
the salaries of two family members are combined.


An editorial which appeared in the Gleaner on the 18th April 2009
stated that, and I quote:


“In the final analysis the findings of the NHT survey is less
about the agency itself than it is about the failure of broad
economic policy in Jamaica”. End Quote.


Mr. Speaker,


To illustrate the impact of this Administration‟s bad management
and bad policies, I will present the cases of three Jamaican
families: -
                                   15




   1. Paul the Entrepreneur
   2. Sonya the Security Guard, and
   3. Tenneel the Secretary


Paul‟s situation became known to me when I received a copy of a
letter outlining his challenges.


He wrote:
“I have always held the virtues of hard work, respect and justice
at the centre of my being. I started a small business a year ago,
but it has been gravely affected by the current economic climate.
As a result, I have not been able to keep my monthly mortgage
obligations.


The NHT has now referred the matter for legal proceedings. I am
not seeking to be absolved of my responsibility. Instead, I seek an
intervention of the human spirit on the matter.


I understand that financial institutions must carry out their
functions, but I fear that they have so prioritized their operations
in such a manner that it drowns out the voice of the honest
hardworking citizen, crying for compassion and understanding.”


In spite of this plea for help, Paul‟s house was forcibly sold two
days before Christmas last year.
                                  16


I subsequently learnt that Paul has a wife and two young
daughters.


I also learnt that in his attempt to sustain his family in the face of
his business having failed – he used his motor vehicle as a “robot
taxi”.
His vehicle was seized by the Police.      He was therefore left
destitute and without hope.


Mr. Prime Minister, the letter I received, was written to you!


Paul is one of many who have lost their houses because of the
cruel policies being pursued by this government.


As I recall his situation, I am reminded of the Bob Marley song,
“Talkin‟ Blues”


“Cold ground was my bed last night, and rock stone was
my pillow too”….


Colleagues….
If it is not us, the elected members in this Parliament that should
find solutions to the challenges our people are facing, then really,
whose responsibility is it?


I now turn to the case of Tenneel - a single mother and a
Secretary in the Public Sector.
                                   17




She earns J$500,000.00 per annum.


Tenneel has been impacted several times by the new Tax
Package.


Based on the Minister‟s „give-back‟ announcement she will „get
back‟ approximately $52,000.00 per year.


As a motorist she will now have to pay more for gas.


Let us assume that she will only pay the additional $8.75 per liter
for gas, and assuming that today‟s gas prices were to hold steady,
her gas bill would increase by $2,200.00 per week or $26,400.00
per year.


This would leave $25,600.00 of the Finance Minister‟s „give back‟.


Tenneel now also has to pay GCT on a wide range of food items
and other commodities (which were previously exempted),
and unfortunately, she still does not know what is on the full and
final list of items to be taxed.


This despite several checks on the Finance Ministry‟s website.
                                18


If we assume that the increases from GCT amounts to $3,000.00
per month (and I am being very conservative); then Tenneel will
spend an additional $36,000.00 per year to purchase basic goods
and services.


Tenneel will therefore spend $26,200.00 more for petrol and
$36,000 more for GCT charges……


This is a grand total of $62,200.00 OR $10,000.00 more than the
“give back” that she received from Minister Shaw‟s calculations.


Mr. Speaker,


Minister Shaw now needs to explain to Tenneel where is the “give
back”, since she is spending $10,000.00 more than she received in
the Minister‟s “so called” give back.


Let me now introduce this Honourable House to Sonya, the
Security Guard.


Her salary is made up of two components –Housing Allowance –
which was not previously taxed and her Basic Pay.


Under the government‟s “give back”, as of July 1, Sonya now
pays Income Tax, NIS, NHT, Education Tax – all statutory
deductions, not only on her Basic pay as she was accustomed,
but on the combined amount.
                                 19




Let us do the Math.


Sonya earns J$8,500.00 per week
J$5,100.00 is her Basic Pay
J$3,400.00 is her Rent Allowance


Previously her total PAYE and other statutory deductions were
approximately J$709.00 per week.


However, with the new Taxation Package, personal allowances will
be taxable as from July 1, this year.


Sonya will therefore pay a total of J$1,139.00 per week in taxes
after taking account of the increase threshold.


This means that Sonya will suffer an additional J$430.00 per week
or a Grand Total of J$22,360.00 per year in additional payroll
taxes alone.


This Mr. Speaker does not include the impact of the gas tax or
additional GCT on the prices of transportation, food and other
commodities.


Mr. Speaker,
There is nothing in the budget for Sonya, Tenneel or Paul.
                                    20




These are just three cases. I haven‟t even spoken about the
Tourism Worker, whose gratuity is now taxed.


Or about the Nurse who still awaits a resolution to her new salary
situation, or to the Security Forces, who like Sonya, will now pay
taxes on their Uniform and Rent allowances.


Nor have I spoken about the Bauxite workers who will be losing
their   productivity   incentives        or   Contracted   Professionals
throughout the Public Sector and Private Sector who will now have
to pay income tax on their gratuities.


Jamaica – this is not a “give back budget” – this is a “hold
down and tax Budget”.


Mr. Speaker, as a youth in my Constituency said to me yesterday -
         “Dem dash it pon wi without waaaaaning!”
Mr. Speaker,


There is another group of people in the society who the “give back
“budget will not impact at all.


These are our minimum wage earners.


Still there is another group, the unemployed.
                                 21


This last group has no income. This group has no “give back” to
get. Yet this group will have to pay the GCT on cup soup, which
for many, is their only hot meal for the day.


It should be placed on the record in this Parliament, that the
minimum wage earner should have had an increase since January
2009.


Mr. Prime Minister, When you address this Honourable House
next week – I call on you to grant the long overdue increase so
that they will not be worse off than they were before the tax
package.


Among these persons are those who were promised Jobs, Jobs,
and more Jobs. Now they have been taxed, taxed, taxed and
taxed again.


CONSUMER/INVESTOR CONFIDENCE


Mr. Speaker,


This budget provides nothing for job creation.


The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce First Quarter 2009, Business
and Consumer Confidence Survey tells us that 80% of our
consumers who are not working, have no hope of getting a job in
the near future.
                                     22




The same survey tells us that 60% of our investors do not believe
that this is the right time to invest.


In fact, business and consumer confidence is at its lowest level
since the survey began in 2001.


This is a very dangerous development, because if there is low
business confidence then there will be low levels of investment.
If there are low levels of investments, there will be low levels of
employment and no economic growth.


This will lead to a vicious cycle.


The Minister of Finance has already indicated that the economy
will decline by at least three and a half percent this year. We on
this side believe that this is a conservative figure.


THE OVERSEAS WORK PROGRAMME
The Minister of Labour told us that the Overseas Employment
Programme would supplement local employment.


However, whereas employment in the overseas programme was
approximately 14,000 during the previous Administration, by the
Government‟s own figures, as published in the Estimates of
Expenditure, only 11,959 persons were placed in this programme
last year – a decline of nearly 2000.
                                   23


Mr. Speaker,


Employment is down locally as is overseas employment for the
Jamaican worker.


To these persons, the taxes recently imposed are not only
regressive, they are oppressive.


These taxes are downright backward.


THE MOTORING PUBLIC/TRANSPORT
SECTOR


Last year, $2.4 Billion of the government‟s tax package was
imposed on the motoring public, in the form of higher registration
fees, driver‟s licenses, and fitness examination fees.


The taxi operators, mini-bus operators, the truck owners and
those transporting goods, sales persons and the general motoring
public had to find the money to pay the increases in taxes last
year.


This year, they are taxed again.


Some - $13.32 Billion out of the $24.1b tax package or 55% will
be levied on the motoring public.
                                 24




This will logically lead to increases in the cost of transportation,
and the cost of goods and services which will ultimately be borne
by the consumer.


What is in this budget for     those in the transportation sector,
transport operators and the motoring public?


ACCEPTING REALITY/PUBLIC TRUST


The Opposition Spokesman on Finance has already outlined the
slowness of the Administration in responding to the challenges
that were developing since at least August of last year.


Where, instead of timely responses and action, the government
opted for non-action and Jamaica continues to pay heavily for that
decision.


That decision Mr. Speaker deepened the local crisis and
contributed to the increases in Interest Rates; compounding the
pain on businesses and consumers alike.


This will forever be one of the events that typify this
Administration as not acting in the interest of the nation, or more
profoundly, breaking Public Trust to serve narrow political self
interest.
                                  25




One of the most fundamental factors required in a time of crisis is
that the leader and leadership of the country must enjoy the trust
and confidence of the people.


This trust factor allows the people to believe and feel confident
that their leaders have their interest at heart.


The test is not just what is said but more importantly what is
done. It is NOT just proclamation - it is also demonstration.


In other words, if you say one thing today and do something
different tomorrow, your ability to lead will be compromised.


There are several examples that typify this: -


    The promise to the people of Portmore to roll back the toll
      and then increased it instead
    Signed an agreement with the Teachers and then back-
      pedaled
    Promised to double the nurses pay and then back- pedaled


    Promised a small cabinet and still has the largest Cabinet in
      the history of Free and Independent Jamaica
                                 26


John C. Maxwell reminds us:


“There are three qualities a leader must exemplify to build
public trust:


Competence, Connection and Character”


He continues:
“People will forgive the occasional mistakes based on
ability, especially if they can see that you are growing as a
leader. But they won’t trust someone who has slips in
character. In that area, even occasional lapses are lethal”.


That statement by John C. Maxwell is a reminder to all of
us in this Honourable House.


The deficit of Public Trust is compounded by the failure to respond
in an appropriate and proactive way to the current crisis.


Jamaica is blessed to have alive and well three former Prime
Ministers,   all of whom have faced varying crises during their
tenure in office.




This time around, the effects of this crisis have been made worse
by the failure of the government to recognize on a timely basis it
would adversely impact Jamaica.
                                 27


WE HAVE FACED CRISES BEFORE…


Mr. Speaker,
I have been part of, and at times led the team that successfully
dealt with many crises.


The country well remembers the trauma caused by the 9/11
terrorist attacks in United States and the massive blow it was to
tourism and our economy in general.


As a country we successfully weathered the impact of that crisis.
The Administration took swift action, to bolster and financially
support our national airline and to convince travelers that we were
a safe destination and that our planes were safe.


We anticipated and we managed, We were proactive, not
reactive.


That was management.


We have come through financial crises before without the IMF and
without reneging on our debts.


We were proactive and we managed. We retained the confidence
of creditors.
                                  28


This is why Jamaica could get loans for the economic stimulus
package that the government announced in December of last year.


Mr. Speaker,
We faced a possible collapse of our banking system in 1996 not
unlike the situation faced by the United States today.


The record will now show that the actions taken by the PNP
government protected the interest of the Jamaican people.


No one lost their pension.


No one lost his or her total savings.


The strategies employed by the then Minister of Finance are now
regarded as a textbook blueprint for managing a financial crisis.


We did what we had to do and we kept our nation solvent and on
the right track.
We anticipated and we managed, we were proactive, not
reactive.


In the face of significant local criticisms, while as Minister of
Finance, Dr. Omar Davies set about to reform the financial sector
and developed a financial sector regulatory regime, institutions
and mechanisms which allowed Jamaica to withstand the initial
impact of the present global financial crisis.
                                 29




Omar,


We anticipated and we managed, We were proactive, not
reactive.


That was management


We faced a number of oil price shocks.


We took measures to protect the people and the economy.


One   such   measure    was    the    PetroCaribe   Agreement    with
Venezuela.


We continued on that mission, despite criticisms, protests,
roadblocks and demonstrations from those who did not have the
foresight to put the country‟s interest above political expediency.


Even while we hosted foreign heads of state to bring to life the
Petrocaribe Agreement, demonstrations were being held.


Mr. Speaker,
How well we remember the protests of September 5 and 6, 2005.
Protests led by those who are jumpy and antsy now about
protests in the wake of the largest tax package in the history of
Free and Independent Jamaica.
                                30




Really now, can you imagine Jamaica today without this
agreement?


We have not only faced and skillfully managed economic crises;


We have also faced frequent natural disasters including hurricanes
such as Gilbert, Ivan, Emily and the immediate aftermath of Dean
in 2007.


During each crisis, We anticipated and we managed, We
were proactive, not reactive.


OUR APPROACH


Mr. Speaker,


In determining our leadership style, we relied upon consensus
building, broad-based consultations, nurturing social partnership
and direct and frequent communication with the people and all the
stakeholders.


The outcomes of consultations, consensus, partnership and of
proactive decisions as well as management were:


   A healthy NIR in excess of US2.4 Billion
   Low inflation at 5.8%
                                31


   The Tourism Enhancement Fund
   A strong National Insurance Fund with more than 52 Billion
     Dollars
   An effective National Health Fund
   The Universal Access Fund with over 3 Billion Dollars
   High levels of foreign direct investments


  That was management!


  Mr. Speaker,
  In terms of Infrastructure our management acumen yielded: -
   Highway 2000
   The Modernized Airports
   The Expanded the sea ports
   A State of the Art – Transportation Centre in Half Way Tree
   Revolutionized the Information Communication Technology
     sector


  That was management!


  In terms of regional and international relationships and policies:
   We expanded our links with the Diaspora
   Strengthened international relationships with countries such
     as China, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and South Africa
   We developed Bauxite Partnerships


That was management!
                                 32




Our insistence on global and regional partnerships has been the
hallmarks of our Administration and the benefits that our people
currently enjoy, confirm that this was the right approach.


We had the foresight and the vision, and the positive outcomes
stand as landmark - achievements that serve the country well
today and will in the future.


The consensus and social partnership and our management style
yielded


    Significant growth and expansion in the numbers of
      Jamaican Micro, Medium and Large Enterprises
    Unprecedented growth in new small businesses
    The greatest boom in home ownership and construction
    More Jamaican professionals being able to own their own
      homes than at any previous times in the history of Free and
      Independent Jamaica…..


   We anticipated and we managed, We were proactive,
   not reactive.


That was management.
                                  33


These developments have put Jamaica in a better position to
withstand the current global crisis.


The extent to which we emerge stronger will depend on the
quality of management and leadership that we sitting in this House
are able to provide to the nation.


It depends on our ability to work together across Jamaica in a
genuine social partnership.


LEADING FROM THE FRONT


Mr. Speaker,


This Administration has a responsibility to forge a partnership with
the people and to agree to a blueprint that takes us through this
crisis while protecting the people and the progress of the nation.


The Budget presented by the government shows no clear path nor
clear direction to take us out of this current situation.


As the Opposition Spokespersons on Agriculture and Finance have
pointed out, critical areas that would stimulate growth, or save
jobs have been all but ignored.
                                34


For instance – we are yet to hear exactly how the Government
intends to close and by what means they intend to close the gap
in the external accounts?


Mr. Speaker,


I notice that the government sent a delegation to meet with the
IMF. Mr. Prime Minister – are we heading back to a borrowing
relationship with the IMF?


A clear statement as to the options available and the quality of
discussions that have ensued to determine which option we should
take needs to be made public – so that the speculation that is
harming Business, Investor and Consumer Confidence may be
corrected.


While we agree that the government has limited fiscal space, we
believe that the budget numbers could have been more prudently
configured in order to ease the pressure on the working class, the
middle class and the poor.


As Dr. Davies and Roger Clarke have pointed out – there are
several creative options that the government could have
considered that would have eased the severity of the challenges
with which we are faced.
                                 35


While the Opposition supports the Government‟s commitment to
service the debt, one clear area in which innovation needs to be
applied is in respect to Domestic Debt.


Other approaches, while allowing the Administration to raise
revenue, would not have placed so much burden on any one
group.


JAMAICA’S NEW APPROACH – OUR NEW CONVERSATION


Mr. Speaker,
All around the world the old arrangements are failing to hold.


A new architecture for national development must emerge.


That new architecture applies as well to the constitutional
framework within which we currently operate.


The recent ruling of the Court of Appeal in the Dabdoub vs Vaz
ruling has raised a question with respect to the very Constitution
of Jamaica.


As it relates to the interpretation of who is qualified to sit in the
Parliament as well as to hold special positions within society.
                                   36


As a responsible political party, we recognize that we cannot
simply ignore the constitutional requirements as to who is qualified
and who is not to sit in our parliament.


At the same time the economic and social problems that the
country faces are not likely to be effectively tackled, if we remain
in a continuous state of political agitation.


The PNP places on record that we are prepared to work
cooperatively with the government in upholding both the spirit and
the principle of the Constitution, as well as the democratic
representation of individual voters.


The new constitutional architecture must therefore spell out very
clearly the rule that governs all of us and these must be adhered
to.


Mr. Speaker, Jamaicans,


That new architecture will require the full and objective
participation of every shareholder in Jamaica‟s success.


For let no one within these walls or elsewhere throughout this
country, be of any doubt that it will take all of us moving as one
Family toward a Common National Vision in order to protect the
gains already made.
                                  37




That is why it is heartening, when in meetings with leaders of the
local banking and financial sector, they declare their willingness to
think creatively and progressively – even and especially as it
relates to new approaches to deal with the Domestic Debt.


Just yesterday it was reported in the media that one of the leaders
in the financial sector made public his desire to engage in a new
approach to this perennial challenge.


Let me commend him publicly here today and to invite others to
join his noble efforts.


The nature of the times in which we live, call for these kinds of
revolutionary approaches to surpass the modern challenges..


This is exactly what as Jamaicans we need to do to identify an
indigenous solution in the best interest of all.


The Opposition Spokesman on Finance speaking on behalf of the
Parliamentary Opposition has made          specific recommendations
that have to be objectively considered outside of the realm of
divisive political rhetoric.


The time for this proactive approach is now, in the wake of
worsening conditions and modern challenges including Global
Warming.
                                 38




Jamaica is a Small Island Developing State.


This places us at the epicenter of the challenges that come with
Global Warming and Climate Change for which there is a growing
body of evidence which proves that this is a clear and present
danger that is already affecting our shores.


The issue of rising sea levels, increases in the frequency and
impact of hurricanes and other natural disasters must be
centralized in any development strategy that we formulate going
forward.


In this light Mr. Speaker,


We on this side, strongly recommend to the government that the
allocation for Natural Disaster Mitigation and Management in the
current Budget be significantly improved.


The discussion regarding the economic crisis is incomplete if we
did not discuss Jamaica‟s energy crisis.


Notwithstanding the tremendous fall in the cost of crude oil over
the last six months, we have to be relentless in our efforts to find
more affordable and preferably renewable sources of energy.
                                 39


I recommend that we begin to consider nuclear energy as a
potential source of energy for the national grid.


Let us recall the achievements of the International Centre for
Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) at the UWI Mona,
Campus.


I strongly urge the government to begin to explore our options in
this area.


I will make mention of the Economic Stimulus Package that was
announced in December.


I am sure many if not all of us in this House would have seen the
review of the Stimulus Package done by a noted Caribbean
Research Institute – that described the stimulus package as “un-
stimulating”.


It is not just that the package was too little, very late. The
emphases were also incorrect.


When you are stimulating an economy, the injection of resources
and capital must be targeted at a specific set of productive
activities.


In the present situation that sector should have been the micro,
small and medium sized business sector.
                                 40




It is at this level that the productive capital of entrepreneurs has
the most direct impact on the real economy in communities which
flows throughout the society.


We would have provided more funds to The Jamaica Business
Development Corporation to facilitate the development of micro,
small and medium sized enterprises to generate economic growth
and create jobs.


In this scenario, both Capital and Capacity is provided by the
government and agencies of the state that are properly staffed
and funded.


I welcome the re-announcement by Minister Samuda that
measures will be taken to remove all red tape and systemic
impediments from the process of accessing loans that are available
for entrepreneurs.


It is critical that we ensure that all blockades – institutional and
otherwise – to production are systematically identified and
removed.


Our stimulus package would have been implemented earlier and
would have been utilized differently.
                                41


We would have sought a better balance between economic
support for businesses,
protection of the vulnerable, ensure safety and security, provide
alternative employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to save
jobs, and defend our social protection programmes so that poverty
does not increase.



We would have gone beyond the just the proclamation and
expedited the implementation.

We would have done more to enable small business to access the
funds made available under the economic stimulus package.

That would have been a stimulus package.


Mr. Speaker, In terms of Agriculture, our Stimulus Package, as
outlined by the Member from Central Westmoreland, would have
emphasized a market collection and distribution strategy for
Agricultural products.


That would have stimulated the rural economy, leading to an
increase in production, employment, and foreign exchange
earnings.
                                    42


Where this Administration has failed miserably – our Stimulus
Package    would   have    seized        the   opportunity   to   mobilize
government into action at the central and local levels to pursue
land reform, land settlement, and land titling that would have
allowed displaced workers and families to produce, with a view to
reducing our US$760 million food import bill.

It was for reasons such as these that we had begun talks with
foreign governments toward cooperation in developing the rich
potential of the country in the areas of neutraceuticals, fruit and
food crop industries.

We would have fast-tracked these arrangements.

Jamaica has the basis for agro-processing industries in a number
of areas – tomatoes, mango, breadfruit, and ackee – and we have
the people who have made Jamaican foods popular around the
world.

Our sought-after exotic fruits could be dried and packaged during
the season when there is inevitably a glut on the market.

Jamaica can and will become a regional hub for food processing
for export, as well as for local consumption.

The time to move in this direction is now.

The government must quickly busy itself in a sensible way to get
these things done and to get these things done now!
                                     43




A stimulus package; if it is to work requires genuine social
dialogue. This would have been centralized and respected.

We        would   have   dialogued    with   the    workers   and   their
representatives, the private sector and civil society to identify the
solutions to the crisis. This is how we would have dealt with the
crisis.

We would have anticipated and we would have managed,
We were proactive, not reactive.!

We must rise to the occasion of our times.

There is an area that cannot escape comment. A critical enabler to
national      development    is   information      and   communications
technology.


As it is described, the information and technology highway enables
the rapid integration of our people in their communities and in our
districts and our parishes to have full low-cost access to the global
marketplace.


The intention of any Progressive Government is to build on the
technological culture of our people;
to develop a strong working culture of using the national IT
platform for production and innovation thus engaging the global
marketplace in selling and marketing their goods and services.
                                  44




Mr. Speaker,
Our people have never been intimidated by technology or science.
Our ease of manipulation and use of the various mobile phones
attests to that.


It is for these very reasons why I turn my attention to the
imposition of GCT on computers and books.


The Government has stated that education is a priority.


Again, there has to be a measurable difference between
proclamation and demonstration.


We on this side are committed to creating a knowledge-based
society.


We have made great strides in enlightening our people, opening
their eyes to opportunities all over the world as a direct outcome
of the liberalization of the Telecoms sector.


The next logical step is to maximize Internet penetration to bring
knowledge and information to the fingertips of more Jamaican
youth and entrepreneurs; making opportunity just one mouse click
away.
                                    45


I know that you agree with us that GCT on computers and books
is regressive; not progressive.


Put simply, it is a huge mistake.


This move is like placing a tax on Literacy and Opportunity. It
must be repealed.


How can you tax Literacy?


If you think Education is expensive – consider the cost of
illiteracy.


In a knowledge-based world - how can you tax Knowledge?


How can you tax the Opportunity for an individual to create his
own jobs?


The tax on computers and on books sends only one message to
the youth of Jamaica and their families.


That message is Access Denied, Progress delayed!


Mr. Speaker, Colleagues, let us all agree today in this House that
the GCT on Computers and on Books should be repealed when the
Prime Minister speaks next week – if not before.
                                 46




Prime Minister, the youth of Jamaica are counting on you to
remove that regressive Tax on Computers and on Books.


CONCLUSION


Mr. Speaker,


Jamaica is faced with a major challenge.


There is a global component and there is a local component.


In the mid 1990s as it became clear that the modern challenges of
the day were not bounded by national borders the United Nations
coined the phrase: “Think Globally – Act Locally”.


This was the guiding theme in the Global Fight against HIV/AIDS
Epidemic.


Colleagues,
Humanity is undergoing a major re-awakening, perhaps for the
first time since the Cold War Era ended and certainly the most far-
reaching of the 20th and 21st Century.


This economic crisis, of unprecedented scale, has the potential to
lead to the impoverishment of entire nations.
                                 47




The decline in value of national currencies as economies collapse
will for sometime continue to destabilize previously held theories
and approaches.


Governments must play the lead role in ensuring social safety and
the Protection of the People.


We must be able to achieve these outcomes and must engineer
new arrangements to allow us to do so.


Mr. Speaker, Colleagues,


In the wake of the new situation that the world now finds itself,
grappling as we all are with the great economic challenges of our
day, I commend this new approach to Jamaica.


We must forge a strategy of Thinking Globally, Negotiating
Regionally, Planning Nationally and Acting Locally.


Nothing can be left to chance…. We must be proactive and
targeted and we must enlist all our people in this most important
national objective.
                                  48


The capacity to overcome has been bequeathed us by our
foreparents, who, despite insurmountable indignities piled on them
by slavery, were relentless in their struggles so that we could be
free.


As the Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey has written:


Our foreparents “suffered, they bled, they died. But with their
sufferings, with their blood, which they shed in their death, they
had a hope, that one day their posterity could be free”.


We are the children of their hope. We are their torch bearers, let
us light a torch, a torch of peace, a torch of love, a torch of U-N-I-
T-Y – that the flame will ignite the passion and unity that will
move us forward as one Jamaica.


Mr. Speaker,


I believe that this is the lesson that Marcus Garvey and all our
National Heroes, in their own unique ways, have tried to teach us.


That lesson is - nothing worthwhile can be achieved without unity.


Perhaps the real opportunity that faces us, is the chance to re-
discover the tremendous value that can be unleashed, when as a
people we apply our combined strengths and energies to the
national cause.
                                  49




Every important gain that we have made has come about by virtue
of the combined strengths of our people.


It was the power of community that strengthened and sustained
our ancestors through slavery and through their struggles for
freedom.


It was the power of the collective energy that animated and
supported our heroes as they challenged the power structure at
various points in the history of the nation.


My Fellow Parliamentarians,
This year more than any other in our recent past, we must all
come to Jamaica‟s rescue. Each of us will be required to do better
and to be fairer in our dealings with the people we serve and with
whom we come in contact.


The economic situation that faces us has given a clear indication
of how closely linked and interdependent we all are for our
survival.


I therefore ask all of us to remember that there is no greater
satisfaction than to help those in need.
                                 50


The current national experiences have also given clearer meaning
to the concept of people-centred policy and the need to balance
people‟s lives as we keep focus on balancing the books.


Unless both are prioritized, our targets will be missed and our
efforts shall be in vain.


At this time of great adversity we need to bond together,
community by community and parish by parish as one family,
working for the betterment of the our country.


The solutions to our challenges rest in the hearts and minds and
hands of all Jamaicans, those abroad and those at home.


Let us in this house all set aside the differences that separate us
and focus on the bonds that unite us.


All of us must demonstrate the belief that together we truly can
succeed. We are known to be a loving, caring and hard-working
people. So as we face this challenge – we must face it with a spirit
of commitment, dedication, and determination – then we can truly
change things.


And we can do all these things – Because we Must!
51