Opposition Leader Mark Golding has described as a “samfi” or trick, the Government’s repeated claims that for eight straight years it has imposed no new taxes on Jamaicans.
This position was repeated on March 7 by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke when he opened the 2023/24 Budget Debate at Gordon House.
However, that position was rubbished by Opposition Leader Mark Golding on Tuesday during his contribution to the Budget Debate.
He pointed to the Government’s Fiscal Policy Paper that was tabled in the Parliament by Clarke last week, which indicates that the Government expects to collect $766 billion in taxes during the current fiscal year that ends March 31.
“That is $150 billion (or over 24 per cent) more taxes than the $616 billion it (the government) collected in the prior 2021/22 fiscal year. It is also $95 billion more than the $671 billion in taxes it originally budgeted to collect for this fiscal year,” Golding highlighted.
He argued that it was worth noting that the government projects will collect $824 billion in taxes in the upcoming 2023/24 fiscal year that starts April 1.
“That is an increase in tax collections of over 34 per cent over the two fiscal years from April 2022 to March 2024…an increase in taxes of $208 billion,” he 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, last week Tuesday,” Golding stated.
He stressed that the $208-billion increase in taxes over the past two fiscal years is significantly greater than (nearly triple) the accumulated inflation over that two-year period, which is projected to be 12.3 per cent (7.1 per cent in 2022/23 and 5.2 per cent in 2023/24).
He said: “It comes in a period where people’s living standards are being ravaged by the cost-of-living increases. And these massive increases in taxes weren’t limited to the last two years, but if we look at the last seven fiscal years the tax take has increased from 24.4 per cent of GDP to 28.2 per cent of GDP, placing Jamaica amongst the highest-taxed countries in the world.”
“And if we want to think about it another way, to look at it from the perspective of the individual, then over the last seven years of the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) administration, the tax take from every Jamaican 15 years and older, has increased from $197,000 in in 2015/16 to $365,000 in 2022/23, an increase of 85 per cent. This JLP administration is now extracting an additional $168,000 from the pockets of every Jamaican. Then they come with the samfi statement bout no new taxes,” Golding said.
He argued that since the vast majority of the taxes in Jamaica are now indirect taxes, the poor and lower income earners bear the brunt of it in the General Consumption Tax on local purchases.