Dr. Peter Phillips, Opposition Spokesman on Finance, and incoming President of the People’s National Party (PNP) has continued his harsh criticism of the government’s $742 billion budget and tax package.
Describing it as a “pick pocket budget” set to create even more hardships for vulnerable Jamaicans, Dr. Phillips again called for the government to revise the plan.
"It is too onerous and even at this late stage, I would say to the government wheel and come again. It's an ill-conceived idea which is delivering an unnecessary shock to the country," he chided.
He was speaking at a post budget press briefing at PNP headquarters in St. Andrew on Monday morning.
Jeopardise the economy
Dr. Phillips, at a press conference on Monday, declared that the government’s desperation to implement its "ill-conceived" $1.5 million tax plan and other elements of the budget will jeopardise the economy.
He said of particular concern are the health, education and security sectors, which have received nominally less than in previous budgets.
"In security, it's nominally less that it was last year, even as we are facing an eruption of violent crime," he asserted, noting that the murder rate has risen almost 25 per cent above the figure for the corresponding period in 2016.
He further pointed out that the Andrew Holness-led administration has failed to remove any additional schools from the shift system.
Dr. Phillips added that claims by the government that changes to the property tax regime will be a painless adjustment must be rejected.
He said the new regime, which he charged was being implemented without consultation, will severely affect ordinary Jamaicans.
Dr. Phillips presented a report from farmers and other small business owners claiming that their property tax payments are set go up by as much as 900 per cent.
"Farmers for example in the Ballads Valley, Tryall area of (southeast) St. Elizabeth - a half acre of land where the property tax rate was $5,500, they have been served with a notice for $16,450 on the basis of the new regime. One which had three quarters of an acre and was paying $7000, now faces a $17,250 tax bill," he outlined.
Finance Minister Audley Shaw recently announced a revised system that is expected to yield $4 billion in property taxes. The plan has received significant opposition from various sectors.