Jamaica’s Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke will close out the country’s 2020/2021 Budget Debate in Parliament today, March 24.
In his address, Dr Clarke is expected to respond to presentations made by the Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, and Opposition Spokesperson on Finance, Mark Golding.
The Budget Debate was opened by Dr Clarke on March 10, followed by the contributions of Golding (March 12) and Dr Phillips (March 17). Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, made his contribution last week, March 19.
“The severe disruption caused by COVID-19 globally has escalated daily over the past week, and resulted in increasingly stringent measures taken locally to safeguard the Jamaican population.”– Finance Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke
Among the highlights of the Budget Debate were Clarke’s announcements that there would be a reduction in the General Consumption Tax (GCT) and Holness’ declaration that the National Housing Trust would cut interest rates for all new and existing mortgagors.
Clarke said the GCT will drop by 1.5 per cent to 15 per cent effective April 1, a change that will reduce revenue by $14 billion, but give Jamaicans more disposable income. He also outlined that a tax credit of $375,000 would be made available to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that file taxes.
Further, Dr Clarke had said the asset tax for banks would be reduced from 0.25 per cent to 0.125 per cent, costing the government $3 billion. However, that has since been delayed a year as banks agreed to forgo the revision to allow for the money to go towards the country’s COVID-19 Contingency fund.
The largest share of the Government’s proposed $853.5 billion budget was allocated to the Ministry of Education. Youth and Information which will receive some $117 billion.
Additionally, a third supplementary budget will also be tabled for the current financial year, as announced by Clarke last week, in response to the coronavirus threat.
“The severe disruption caused by COVID-19 globally has escalated daily over the past week, and resulted in increasingly stringent measures taken locally to safeguard the Jamaican population,” Dr Clarke told Parliament last week.
The supplementary budget will need to be reviewed by the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) and debated and voted on by the House of Representatives tomorrow if the funds are to be approved before the end of the current financial year on March 31.