- The 2013/14 Estimates of Expenditure showed $370.5 billion allocated for Recurrent (House-keeping) expenses and $150.38 billion for Capital (Development) expenses.
- History was created in the Senate on May 17, when Government Senator, Floyd Morris, was elected as the first visually impaired President of the Chamber.
- Five Orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) were approved as part of measures to combat money laundering.
The Houses of Parliament continued to debate and approve several legislations in 2013, aimed at advancing Jamaica’s economy and social agenda.
STATE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT
The 2013/14 session of Parliament began in April, highlighted by the Throne Speech delivered by Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen.
The theme of the speech was: ‘Jamaica: Going for Growth and Development’, and it outlined the priority programmes and policies to be pursued by the Government during the new fiscal year.
The 2013/14 Budget Debate was held from Thursday, April 18 to Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Presentations were made by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller; Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips; Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness; Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell; then Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audley Shaw, and then Opposition Spokesman on Tourism and Travel Service Development, Edmund Bartlett.
The 2013/14 Estimates of Expenditure were also tabled in the House, which showed that $370.5 billion was allocated for Recurrent (House-keeping) expenses and $150.38 billion for Capital (Development) expenses.
With the completion of the Budget Debate, other members of the House of Representatives made their presentations in the Sectoral Debate, which followed.
Parliament Year in Review Audio
NEW PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
History was created in the Senate on May 17, when Government Senator, Floyd Morris, was elected as the first visually impaired President of the Chamber. He replaced Rev. Stanley Redwood, who officially resigned on May 10, after serving for 16 months.
Also, Attorney-at-Law, Sophia Frazer-Binns was appointed Government Senator, to fill the vacancy arising from the resignation of Rev. Stanley Redwood.
Meanwhile, Businessman, Dr. Nigel Clarke, and Principal of Jamaica College, Ruel Reid, were sworn in as Opposition Senators in the Upper House, on November 28.
Many pieces of legislation were passed in both Houses of Parliament covering a number of sectors, such as agriculture, industry, justice and finance. Chief among the laws that were passed are:
- The Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) (Amendment) Act, 2013: This Act widens the eligibility criteria for the receipt of a pension and allows for service as a Parish Councillor to be taken into account in determining the eligibility of a Legislator for retiring allowance.
- The Bauxite (Production Levy) (Validation and Indemnity) Act, 2013: This legislation regularises withdrawals from the Capital Development Fund (CDF), which were carried out in contravention of the Bauxite Production Levy Act. It also indemnifies the public servants who carried out the withdrawals in good faith.
- The National Housing Trust (Amendment) (Special Provisions) Act, 2013: This law allows for the amendment of the National Housing Trust Act to provide financing for fiscal consolidation for the period 2013/14 to 2016/17.
- The Tax Collection (Amendment) Act, 2013: This legislation empowers the Minister of Finance and Planning to authorise the write-off of arrears of tax deemed uncollectable and to make regulations for the management of arrears of tax debt.
- The Tax Administration Jamaica Act, 2013: This Bill was approved for the establishment of Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) as a semi-autonomous revenue authority. TAJ will be responsible for registration, taxpayer services, audit, investigations, assessments, collection, enforcement, legal representation, and various support services now being carried out in respect of domestic taxes.
- The Appropriation Act, 2013: The Appropriation Bill was passed, thereby approving the budget for the 2013/14 financial year.
- The Charitable Organizations (Tax Harmonization) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2013: This legislation deals with the treatment of charitable organisations for the purpose of taxation. The Bill was considered a structural benchmark within the Extended Fund Facility programme between Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- The General Consumption Tax (Validation and Indemnity) Act, 2013: This Bill validates the Provisional Orders to amend the GCT Act, which were introduced between 2003 and 2013, to implement revenue measures.
- The Financial Investigations Division (Amendment) Act, 2013: This legislation amends the Financial Investigations Division Act, to enable the Division’s membership in the Egmont Group (Financial Intelligence Units).
- The Revenue Administration (Amendment) Act, 2013: This Act seeks to, among other things, significantly improve the State’s revenue collection process by empowering the Commissioner General of Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) with the authority to mandate the provision of information, deemed useful and useable, in a format appropriate for, and relevant to respective sectors. It will also facilitate more efficient and effective execution of the powers of investigation, audit, assessment, collection, and enforcement by TAJ, and improve the quality and usefulness of information furnished periodically to the agency by various stakeholders.
- The Income Tax (Amendment) Act, 2013: This law regularises measures already in place, and makes permanent, the revenue measures that were introduced as at April 1.The changes, which were implemented by way of a Provisional Order, address several strategies that were effected to raise revenues. These include widening of the definition of emoluments accruing to persons or family members, by reason of office or employment, to include, cash benefit or kind, including rent or laundry allowance received by such persons.
- The Charities Act, 2013: This legislation introduces a single piece of legislation to regulate all charitable organisations, whether intending to, or already operating in the country. It is a key part of the Extended Fund Facility between Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- The Pensions (Superannuation Funds and Retirement Schemes) (Validation and Amendment) Act, 2013: This validates all actions taken by the Financial Services Commission in collecting licensing fees from investment managers since 2006, pursuant to the Pensions (Superannuation Funds and Retirement Schemes) Act, 2004, and the Registration, Licensing and Reporting Regulations, 2006. It also indemnifies officials of the Financial Services Commission in respect of actions taken pursuant to the aforesaid Pensions Act and Regulations over the relevant period.
- The Protection of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Act, 2013: This legislation facilitates Jamaica’s compliance with its obligations under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The Act will, among other things, seek to promote research, to assist farmers who generate and use their own varieties and apply ecological principles in maintaining soil fertility and combating diseases, weeds, and pest.
- The Obeah (Amendment) Act, 2013; The Larceny (Amendment) Act, 2013; and the Law Reform (Flogging and Whipping) (Abolition) Act, 2013: These three laws were approved to remove flogging and whipping from the country’s statute books as a penalty for any offence.
- The Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, 2013: Also called the lotto scam Bill, this legislation addresses, among other things: obtaining any property or inducing any person to confer any benefit on any person by false pretence; inviting or otherwise inducing a person to visit Jamaica for the purpose of committing an offence under the Act; and knowingly conducting a financial transaction with the proceeds of an offence.
- The Professions Supplementary to Medicine (Validation and Indemnity of Council) Act, 2013: This law validates and indemnifies the tenure of the Council for the period October 16, 2008 to May 31, 2011.
- The Trade Marks Act, 2013: This provides for a modern legislative framework for the administration of trademarks. Among the specific features of the Bill are: to provide for the revocation of a trademark as a result of non-use or disuse for a period of five years without good reason; and establish the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) as the organisation responsible for carrying out the duties of the Registrar under the Act.
- The Conch (Export Levy) (Validation and Indemnity) Act, 2013: This legislation validates the levy of US$1 per pound of conch exported which was charged during the 2011 Conch Season.
- The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) (Amendment) Act, 2013: This law provides for harsher penalties for the crime of human trafficking and to expand the list of offences under the law.
- The Aquaculture, Inland and Marine Products and By-Products
- (Inspection, Licensing and Export) (Amendment) Act, 2013: This law seeks to address the import of aquaculture products into Jamaica, and to establish proper and adequate guidelines for all aspects of the fishing industry.
- The Mustard Seed Missionaries (Incorporation and Vesting) Act, 2013: This legislation provides Mustard Seed with the power to acquire, hold, purchase, receive, lease, and possess any lands or other possession.
- The Crown Property (Vesting) (Amendment) Act, 2013: The law ensures that Government-owned lands are disposed of fairly, transparently, and equitably, in order to widen the base of land ownership in Jamaica. The Act empowers the Commissioner of Lands to acquire, hold and dispose of land and other property of whatever kind. However, this power cannot be exercised without general or special authority in writing from the Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change.
- The Committal Proceedings Act, 2013: The objective of this legislation is to alleviate or reduce problems caused by and related to inordinate delay, high legal costs and the unavailability of witnesses to give evidence.
- The Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2013: This legislation ratifies the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. It also seeks to implement special recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force in regard to money laundering and terrorism financing.
- The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act, 2013: This law will create a paper trail that will assist the tax authorities in collecting the critical revenues necessary for Jamaica to meet its economic objectives. It will also enable a more equitable sharing of the tax burden by providing a platform for bringing more persons who currently evade (paying) taxes into the tax net.
- The Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act, 2013: The law broadens the categories of skilled nationals able to access jobs in regional countries; makes provision for the introduction of a single certificate system whereby CARICOM member states recognise valid qualifying certificates issued by other CARICOM members.
- The Commissions of Enquiry (Amendment) Act, 2013: This legislation seeks to modernise and discourage acts that undermine the effectiveness of the Commission or which are disruptive of the Commission’s proceedings.
- The United Nations Security Council Resolutions Implementation Act, 2013: This legislation enables Jamaica’s fulfilment of its commitments to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).
- The Church of Haile Selassie I (Incorporation and Vesting) Act, 2013: This law allows the Government to officially recognise the Church of Haile Selassie I, as part of the religious expression of the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica.
- The Defamation Act, 2013: The legislation replaces the decades-old slander and libel laws. A key feature of the law is the abolition of the distinction between libel and slander and the establishment of a single cause of action to be known as defamation.
- The Security Interests in Personal Property Act, 2013: This law is aimed at facilitating easier access to loans for businesses. It is a requirement under the agreement between the Government of Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund.
- The Registration (Strata Titles) (Amendment) Act, 2013: The legislation strengthens the ability of Strata Corporations to manage properties.
- Fiscal Incentives (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act; and the Income Tax Relief (Large Scale Projects and Pioneer Industries) Act 2013: The law sets out the reforms to be carried out to corporate tax, including the introduction of an Employment Tax Credit (ETC), changes to the capital allowance regime, and revision of provisions governing the utilisation of tax losses. In terms of the Income Tax Relief (Large-scale Projects and Pioneer Industries) Act, it sets out provision for the designation of large scale projects and pioneer industries that would qualify for tax credit under the Income Tax Act.
- The Securities (Amendment) Act, 2013: This legislation will combat the establishment and proliferation of unlawful financial organisations.
- The Companies (Amendment) Act, 2013: The law provides for the implementation of a one-stop facility at the Companies Office of Jamaica, which will allow persons to register new companies and businesses at one place, thereby improving the way business is done in Jamaica.
Five Orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) were approved as part of measures to combat money laundering. They are: Proceeds of Crime (Designated Non-Financial Institution) (Gaming Machine Operators) Order; Proceeds of Crime (Designated Non-Financial Institution) (Real Estate Dealers) Order; Proceeds of Crime (Designated Non-Financial Institution) (Attorneys-at-law) Order; Proceeds of Crime (Designated Non-Financial Institution) (Casino Operators) Order; and the Proceeds of Crime (Designated Non-Financial Institution) (Public Accountants) Order.
The Orders will cover non-financial businesses and professions, as the Government continues to implement anti-money laundering measures.