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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, has said that he is willing to consider concessions requested by taxi operators, but only on condition that they become registered and tax compliant.
“I am willing to sit down with the wider group of the taxi associations to see how we can look at improving the fleet but it’s quid pro quo. I want in return, the taxi people, first of all, you must be registered, and you must have your red plates, second of all, you must declare your income and make your returns,” he said.
Mr. Shaw was addressing the Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (MSME) Alliance’s Budget Debate, entitled: ‘Survive and Thrive Beyond 2009’, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston, today (April 28).
“We want to reach a point in Jamaica where every person who is employed makes an annual income tax return, just like in the United States,” Mr. Shaw said. He argued it could eventually mean that, based on the taxes that persons pay during the year, they become entitled to a refund from the Government, but the end result must be a better service for the public.
Mr. Shaw also said that the Government is committed to doing everything possible to exercise the fiscal discipline necessary to ensure that interest rates go down this year.
“Our fiscal deficit got out of line last year, in part many difficulties that we faced (were due to) reduced earnings from border taxes, reduced earnings from the bauxite industry, where we had projected to earn over $8 billion from the bauxite industry, and as you know, through the world crisis, the bottom of the bucket of the bauxite industry dropped out, and our earnings was just over $4 billion,” he noted.
He said that for this year, it is expected that the earnings from bauxite will be even worse as, in terms of the levy, it is projected that the Government will only earn about $139 million this year.
He said that this was a part of the reason why, in putting the budget together, major focus was placed on a revised tax system to spread the tax burden more.
Turning to the special tax on gas, Mr. Shaw reiterated that even with the increase, Jamaica is still among the countries with the lowest fuel prices in the region.
The forum was organised jointly by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the MSME Alliance. Mr. Shaw fielded questions from representatives of the manufacturing, tourism, cultural, agricultural, information, and transportation sectors.
The MSME Alliance is a partnership of business associations and organisations representing the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise sector. Its mission is to improve the economic interests and strengthen the voice of MSMEs.

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