JIS News

With an accumulated deficit of $4 billion so far, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service is on the right track to achieving the $12.5 billion in deficit targeted for this fiscal year.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw made the disclosure at the official opening of the Portmore tax collectorate last Thursday (Aug. 7).
“We are on the right track to achieving our target and indeed, that target achievement is reflected in the fact that in our fiscal operations for the first three months, we are ahead in revenue by 1.2 per cent and we are somewhat behind in our expenditure such that our fiscal balance is not only in balance, but it is ahead of the targeted deficit. We targeted $12.5 billion deficit for the year and have realized $4 billion so far,” Minister Shaw told the audience.
Comparing the $6 billion in tax arrears collected in the first four months (April – July) of the last fiscal year, with the $11.45 billion taken for the similar period this year, Minister Shaw said that “that is by any standard of evaluation a substantial increase in the amount of funds we have collected in the first four months.”
He noted that last year, “our total collection of arrears in the normal collection of arrears amounted to $14 billion for the whole year, so consider that for one-third of the year …we have collected almost $12 billion, which is $2 billion short of what we collected in the entire year last year.”
Minister Shaw praised the new Commissioner of Customs, Danville Walker “for the way he has gone about targeting the work that has to be carried out at Customs, because the work there is not just about protecting the revenue as important as it is, it is also issues of national security, stemming the flow of imports of guns and ammunition. It’s also about trade facilitation, improving the turnaround time for imports and exports at our wharves.”
Pointing to the enormity of the task ahead, he pledged good government starting with his ministry, including proper treatment of the public by staff. “I’ve said to the staff and they are responding in a terrific way, ‘treat everybody well’. We are going to set up these revenue centres everywhere to make sure that there are adequate facilities, there are clean, very nice public sanitary facilities there, everything must be comfortable. Our customers must feel good when they come to pay taxes,” he stressed.
In addition, the Finance Minister said that he was making it possible for tax payers to pay online. “We want to put in a system where we have those who can take advantage of electronic transactions, to minimize the need to physically go to a site,” he informed.
“And now,” he said, “we are putting in a model at Constant Spring (tax office), which is going to be patterned across the country where you come in and you pick a number and we have seats, so that instead of having to stand up in a line for too long, you can pick a number and you can have a seat.”
In the meantime however, “we want to put more windows, more staff, employ more people, jobs… jobs… jobs so that more people in our revenues department can service the needs of our people on a more expeditious basis,” the Minister said, pointing out that he would be spending more money to improve the revenue administration and make it easier for persons to pay their taxes.