Sat | Dec 2, 2023

Clarke repels challenge to ‘no new taxes’ claim

Published:Wednesday | March 22, 2023 | 12:38 AM

Rolling out reams of paper around the government side of the parliamentary divide representing more than a decade of tax measures under People’s National Party (PNP) administrations, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke on Tuesday hit back at the Opposition’s claim that his no new taxes claim rang hollow.

The finance minister sought to rubbish the argument by Opposition Leader Mark Golding, who indicated in his contribution to the Budget Debate last week that because tax revenues have gone up, the Government’s claim of no new taxes was “samfie” business.

Clarke boasted of the Government’s achievements as he reiterated that the Holness administration has gone six years with not one new revenue measure that introduces a new tax or increases a tax rate, claiming it was a first in 50 years.

In closing the Budget Debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Clarke accused Golding of pretending not to know what was meant by “no new taxes”.

“When, in the presentation of a new budget the Government of the day introduces no new revenue measures and no increase in tax rates, that is the definition of no new taxes,” Clarke insisted.

Clarke pointed to previous finance ministers under a People’s National Party government who announced no increase in tax rates, which was followed by newspaper headlines of ‘No-tax budget’.

“When your political mentor Dr [Omar] Davies announced ‘no new taxes’ in 2001 and in 2004 and in 2006 and tax revenues went up that year, did you, as you did in your presentation last week, did you tell him how hollow the refrain is?” Clarke asked Golding. “Because you know full well what no new taxes means.”

The minister said it was only five times between 1989 and 2007 and again between 2012 and 2016 that the PNP had years without any new taxes.

“In other words, Madam Speaker, in 17 of the 22 years they were in power, they spent what the country did not have and heaped tax on top of tax on the Jamaican people to make up the difference,” said Clarke.

The finance minister argued that it was normal and to be expected that even when no new taxes are introduced in a fiscal year, tax revenue inflows still increase over the prior year.

He said this happened on five occasions over the 22 years that the PNP was in power.

Last week, Golding said: “The massive increase in the amount of taxes collected from the people over the past two years brings to light just how hollow is the refrain of no new taxes that was bellowed in this House, to the predictable but fundamentally empty beating of tables.”

The Budget was passed by the Parliament.