JIS News

Governor-General, His Excellency Sir Howard Cooke said today that the legislative year 2004/05 would “mark the beginning of a new level of partnership” in the country.
“We intend to build on the historic agreement between the Government and the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, under which wage restraint, job security, increased efficiency and improved fiscal management signal a commitment to national productivity and progress. The Government will be moving quickly to finalise its consideration of the proposals from other social partners,” the Governor-General said.He was delivering the Throne Speech in Parliament, to mark the beginning of the new fiscal year.
The speech outlined the priority policies and programmes which the Government would undertake during the year.
“The end result of this broad-based approach will be to successfully address the reduction of the fiscal deficit. We are committed to fiscal consolidation, optimizing value for money spent and maximizing revenue, with the objective of facilitating investment and supporting sustainable growth and development,” he emphasized.
The Governor-General pointed out that capital expenditure would be directed towards the highest growth-enhancing activities in eight project sectors, led by Tourism, Information and Communication Technology, Agriculture, Minerals and Chemicals.
Sir Howard said in particular, the Agricultural sector intended to complete its Agriculture Business Information System, which would provide technical and market information to facilitate both increased production and improved marketing.
He said that notwithstanding this focus of the capital expenditure programme, the Government would continue its programme of inner city renewal and expansion of housing solutions, primarily through the National Housing Trust and joint venture projects, as well as the completion of major water supply schemes in North West and North East Jamaica, and the national road maintenance programme.
The Governor-General also told Parliament that through a partnership approach involving the private sector and civil society, work would continue during this year to advance physical plans of sustainable development in areas related to Highway 2000, Negril, Portland, St. Catherine, the Corporate Area and St. Mary.
“Tax reform and business and investment facilitation will constitute the major platform from which private sector led growth will be expanded. The current reform of tax policy and administration will be consolidated by the passage of the relevant legislation,” Sir Howard said.
He noted that the implementation of new measures, including a sustainable incentive regime, would ensure that Jamaica has a competitive and equitable tax structure, “which reflects international best practices, stimulates savings and investment, creates jobs and spurs consumer confidence, while generating adequate revenue inflows to finance critical public services”.
The Governor-General stressed that the Government intended to ensure that economic growth reduced income disparity and improved the quality of life of all Jamaicans in the medium and long term.
The Throne Speech was presented under the theme: ‘One Vision, One People: A Strong Jamaica’.
Meanwhile, the Estimates of Expenditure in which the budget allocations for the fiscal year will be set out, is to be tabled in the House at 2:00 p.m. today by Minister of Finance, Dr. Omar Davies.
The Standing Finance Committee will deliberate on the Estimates from April 6 to 8 at Gordon House.
The Finance Minister will also open the Budget Debate on April 15, while Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw will make his presentation on April 20.
Leader of the Opposition, Edward Seaga is scheduled to contribute to the Budget Debate on April 22, and Prime Minister P.J. Patterson will make his presentation on April 27.
The Finance Minister will close the debate on April 28.

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