Thu | Oct 6, 2022

PNP revs up protest for gas tax cap

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2022 | 12:08 AM
Followed by protesters, Mark Golding (in blue Kangol cap), leader of the Opposition, marches with a copy of a draft ministerial order to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Monday.
Followed by protesters, Mark Golding (in blue Kangol cap), leader of the Opposition, marches with a copy of a draft ministerial order to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Monday.

Seizing on national foment that has sparked days of strikes and a rash of rural road protests, People’s National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding amassed scores of supporters on the doorstep of the finance minister’s headquarters to press for a rollback of the petrol tax.

Delivering a draft ministerial order to Financial Secretary Darlene Morrison that called for a cap on the ad valorem special consumption tax on fuel, Golding wants the limit to be placed at US$67.50 per barrel.

Arguing that Jamaicans were victims of a worsening cost-of-living crisis, Golding warned that the country was on the brink and that there was a sense of drift in political leadership.

Major factor in inflation

With double-digit inflation causing the prices of food and other commodities to spiral, the Opposition insists that the Holness administration should intervene to cushion Jamaicans.

“We feel the gas price is a major factor in this overall inflation. And as you know, there are tremendous taxes included in fuel,” the opposition leader said.

Gasolene retailers have been urging the Government to reconsider the tax component of ex-refinery fuel.

“Our concern is that even corporate tax is lower than 45 per cent, and we are asking the ordinary man in the street to bear a tax of 45 per cent on gasolene,” Dianne Parram, president of the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association, told The Gleaner in February.

Several opposition members of parliament participated in Monday’s protest, with demonstrators gathering at National Heroes Park. Among them were Phillip Paulwell, Julian Robinson, Angela Brown Burke, and Anthony Hylton.

Paulwell has since 2021 championed a rethink of the fuel tax regime but Finance Minister Nigel Clarke has rejected it as wholescale and unreasonable, arguing that it would effectively subsidise the wealthy.

In his Budget Debate presentation in March, Clarke announced a $2-billion provisional package for taxi operators and children on state welfare.

However, Golding said that capping the ad valorem tax at US$67.50 would not compromise the fundamentals of the Budget.

“If this is implemented, it would go some way towards the Government showing that they care about the plight of the people,” Golding said.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com