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PNP: No new taxes for WEALTHY

Published:Friday | August 28, 2020 | 12:19 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
PNP Vice-President Damion Crawford.
PNP Vice-President Damion Crawford.

A new People’s National Party (PNP) administration will not burden the country with new taxes to fund a raft of big-spending initiatives in its WEALTHY initiative, Mark Golding, the opposition spokesman on finance, has said.

The election appetiser was served up in its party’s manifesto on Wednesday.

PNP President Dr Peter Phillips has also pledged that a Government led by him would not return to a borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund.

Speaking during a digital press conference on Thursday, Golding made it clear that the PNP would pursue policies to stimulate the economy at a time when it is impacted by deep recession.

“What we plan to do is to reorient the discretionary portion of the Budget to achieve the things that we feel are the priorities that put the people at the centre of development – social investment rather than social control, for example. That’s one of our mantras,” Golding asserted.

Responding to questions about how the PNP would fund its multibillion-dollar WEALTHY plan, Phillips emphasised that it would not be prudent to tighten the economy when it is contracting.

“We have made the sacrifices already by running very tight and balanced budgets. Now we can introduce some slack so that we are able to revive the economy,” he said.

The acronym WEALTHY speaks to the party’s water, employment, access, land, technology, housing, and youth plan.

The party leader conceded that at present, no one knows the ultimate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the country. However, he said that a new PNP administration would “run a deficit to a greater degree, and that’s the plan as it is now. Right now, nobody knows where the bottom of this crisis is”.

The Bank of Jamaica revised its forecast for the economy this week, projecting a seven to 10 per cent decline in gross domestic product (GDP) this fiscal year. Earlier projections by the central bank were for the economy to decline by between four and seven per cent.

Pushing what he described as the PNP’s care package, PNP Vice-President Damion Crawford said that the initiative would cost the country $17.5 billion for one year, compared with the ruling Jamaica Labour Party’s six-month pandemic CARE package that cost the Government $11.5 billion.

“ ... We have identified that less than 30 per cent of what the Government has for discretionary [spending] covers the entire [set of] proposals put forward in the WEALTHY plan,” Crawford said.

In its manifesto, the PNP is proposing to provide a utility grant of $4,000 per month (broken down into $3,000 for light and $1,000 for water) to 360,000 households.

Phillips also described as a “bankable pledge” the provision of 30,000 land titles per year to Jamaicans.

Other plans mentioned by the party include a $100,000 grant to teachers to set up a virtual classroom at home to deliver quality instructions to students as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the face-to-face learning in the classroom.

The PNP also plans to increase the sums paid to persons on the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education by 50 per cent.

Commenting on its rent-to-own housing proposal, Golding said this would benefit persons who could not immediately qualify for a mortgage but allow them to rent at the outset.

“A portion of the rent will go towards a down payment. Once they have achieved the necessary down payment, it converts to a mortgage and they become an owner,” he said.

Golding added that a new PNP-led Government would deliver 130,000 housing units over five years, noting that financing would require public and private funding.