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Where is the Gas Tax Money Going

05/09/10

Permalink 11:06:12 pm, by Skillachi
Categories: Politics, Commentary, News

Where is the Gas Tax Money Going

If we were to look back a year or so in the news we would've been bombarded with the news that the government was planning to implement a fuel tax. Later on in the year we would learn that there was gonna be an additional tax on the previous tax as a way to fill the coffers of the government so they would be able to fix the roads. Yes it was explicitly stated that all the money collected from fuel taxes would go directly into a road maintenance fund (not necessarily of that name). Because of this I guess Jamaicans were not subject to a repeat of the previous gas riots which essentially drew all production to a standstill for around 2 days, when the previous government tried to charge a tax on fuel.

However not to my surprise all of these promises by the government were nothing more than just that... promises. The government has come out and stated that the fuel tax money will not be used to build the roads, but will instead be used to fund a loans from the chinese government. It was also added that if the parish councils wish to have their roads fixed, instead of the government dipping into the revenue from the fuel tax, they (PC's) will have to dip into their own pockets and pay a total of J$306 million to the Parochial Revenue fund (PRF). A figure which will matched by a US$100 million investment from the Chinese.

Taking money from the PRF is going to weaken the local spending that is keeping a lot of people afloat. Contrary to the government's belief (or I should state in my opinion the government's belief) if you take the money from the parish council you are taking money which could be used in community building, feeding the poor, clothing the poor etc., there is so much more that could be done with the millions of dollars which will be taken from the Parish Councils than to build roads. Road building is not the only job of the parish council, there is so much more that could be done.

According to the article published in the gleaner:

Ivan Anderson, chairman of the St Ann Parish Council and mayor of St Ann's Bay, confirmed that the mayors had agreed to the position in principle.

"It has not yet been ratified. We will take it to the council next week because it is something that the minister has asked us to sell to our councillors and we don't know if they will all agree because our PRF would be significantly affected," Anderson said yesterday.

But Colin Fagan, the opposition spokesman on local government, said the local authorities were wary of the minister's offer to share US$15 million of the Chinese loan among the councils.

"The councillors are worried about giving up their monthly subventions for the next four months without any binding commitment from the prime minister, the Cabinet or even a discussion at the level of Parliament," Fagan said.

He contended that parish councils have been burnt by the fuel tax, which was introduced last year to help with the repair and upgrade of infrastructure.

According to Fagan, the parish councils only supported the fuel tax, announced in the 2009-2010 Budget, because they were told funds would be made available to the councils to repair parochial roads.

“Ministers Montague and (Mike) Henry (transport and works minister) must tell us what happened to the gas tax money before the parish councils make any decisions," Fagan argued.

A statement which I completely concur with as we really do deserve some form of explanation. But alas, there are just some pieces of information which it seems the public is not privy to.

Now of course there is the positive that, ok the chinese are investing in Jamaica, and it seems (only seems) that the roads might be fixed. But there is also the issue of, why is the government lieing to us constantly about their plans and what they have done. If the government had stated outright that they intended to use the tax to pay for debt servicing, then I am positive that this would be accepted by the Jamaican public as a reasonable explanation. Instead we are fed these lies about what they plan to do knowing full and well that they have no such real intentions.

 

I do believe it is time for a real explanation though, we cannot keep being treated as if we are idiots.

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