Much of this year’s Budget Debate has been spent discussing the unprecedented economic challenges facing the global economy. To be sure, we find ourselves at a difficult and critical juncture. Nevertheless, this year’s Budget Debate has given Jamaicans and all stakeholders ample reasons to be proud, particularly in light of the challenges we face.
Rather than discussing the details of the global crisis as I did in my opening presentation, I would like to begin my closing remarks by reflecting on several positive developments that have come out of this year’s Debate.
This year’s Budget has plainly displayed the wisdom of the Jamaican people. It has shown that as a society, we have the capacity and collective maturity to make sound decisions about our economic future, even at the expense of short-term gains.
From my own constituency a young female student had this to say: “Minister Shaw, just make sure you spend the money right and help with the roads and schools.”
A gentleman met me outside this House after my opening presentation and noted, “tough medicine never sweet, but if every body feel the pain, I hope when gain-time come, poor people don’t get left.”
The Jamaica Gasoline Retailers Association (JGRA) President Trevor Barnes reportedly said: “we understand the predicament the country faces and we have to call on our members and the country to try and ride out this difficult time.”
Private Sector Organization of Jamaica President Christopher Zacca, arguing that the country had been “borrowing too much for too long”, said that government had little choice in presenting the measures it did.
I would like to thank the Jamaican people, particularly those sectors most affected by this year’s Budget, for their understanding and cooperation. I assure you that we do not take your patience for granted. I also assure you that these shared sacrifices are in our best national interest and will better position the Jamaican economy for growth and development.
This year’s Budget Debate has proven that policymakers are better served by being open and transparent, rather than sweeping things under the rug or ignoring the obvious.
In fact, throughout this Debate I was struck by the extent to which the Government and the Opposition are in agreement on the central economic questions we face.
It is all agreed that we are facing unprecedented economic challenges and cannot operate “business as usual.” To quote the Opposition Spokesman on Finance: “there can be no question that the problems faced in the international economy have impacted several of these outcomes.”
The ‘Doubting Thomases’ now concede that multilateral financing must be an important part of our debt management strategy. To quote the Opposition Spokesman on Finance: “Jamaica must have greater resources from multilateral financial institutions. This must be an area of activity where there should be relentless pressure from developing countries, and Jamaica must play a lead in this regard.”
Even on some of the most controversial areas there is agreement. Both Sides now agree that, to quote the former Minister of Finance: “there is no question that in search for significant additional revenue inflow, a tax on gasoline was a logical consideration.”
As we close this Debate, these areas of general agreement form the foundation from which greater areas of cooperation can be forged.
This closing presentation will take the following order:1. Rebuttals to the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Minister’s presentations2. A review of the medium to long-term Macroeconomic Programme3. Some additional initiatives to stabilize and grow the economy4. Amendments to the Tax Package presented on April 23, 20095. Conclusion.
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