03 Mar Minister of Finance and Minister of Transport conflict on Bauxite Levy
On Tuesday, February 28, 2017 the Minister of Finance announced, during the Standing Finance Committee, that there would be suspension of revenues from the Bauxite Levy, established in 1973 by the Michael Manley Government to ensure that Jamaica benefits from the mining of its bauxite. The Revenue Estimates in the budget corroborated the Minister’s statement by explicitly outlining that the Government is expecting no income from the bauxite levy for the next 5 years. Today, Hon. Mike Henry, the portfolio Minister responsible for the Bauxite industry, during the Standing Finance Committee, said this is not so as the Bauxite levy has not been removed and the Government will expect US$1.5 per tonne on bauxite mined and there is an estimated 2.5 million tonnes to be exported. This cannot be found anywhere in the revenue estimates tabled in the Parliament. It must also be noted that when Minister Shaw made the claim, Minister Henry was sitting in the Parliament and did not correct the Minister of Finance at that time.
The People’s National Party is calling on the Government to speak with clarity on issues of national importance. Spokesman on Finance, Dr. Peter Phillips laments that “over the last year, too often have Government Ministers publicly contradicted each other on issues that will seriously affect the people of Jamaica”. He goes further to say that “the Prime Minister must insist that Cabinet Ministers communicate with each other regularly, especially on issues that are of mutual importance to them.” The PNP is also concerned that the confusion could be deleterious to Jamaica’s discussions with investors in the bauxite sector and to residents in bauxite communities who benefit from the Capital Development Fund. Additionally, Spokesman on Energy and Mining, Philip Paulwell notes that “if the Minister of Finance, who has specific responsibility for the bauxite levy turns out to be correct then Jamaica will not benefit from the current upswing in the bauxite industry, which would see Jamaica foregoing a potential minimum of US$70M in the next fiscal year. This cannot be allowed in a time when Cornwall Regional Hospital needs financial support, more resources are needed in crime fighting and taxes are set to increase upwards of $16 billion”.