Golding lauds Gov't for continuity, but said base was set by the PNP
In a departure from the solely partisan positions usually adopted by politicians during their contributions to the Budget Debate, Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Mark Golding, used a good portion of his maiden presentation to laud the Government for some of the positives in the economy.
But despite the praise, Golding was quick to declare that the groundwork had started when the People’s National Party (PNP) was in power under the leadership of Portia Simpson Miller, with Dr Peter Phillips as the then Finance Minister.
He told the House of Representatives on Tuesday that “at the same time we were looking after our people, we regularly increased the minimum wage. We increased the NIS pension, and we increased the income tax threshold several times, but without raising taxes to do so.”
Golding stressed that “that was prudent economic management”.
He accused the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) of not doing enough to make it easier for persons to do business in Jamaica, as he said was done under the PNP administration.
“The Government has dropped the ball by failing to continue the aggressive drive for improving business conditions in our country… the Government has done virtually nothing in this vital area in the two years since they assumed office,” said the opposition spokesman.
Golding said it was critical to continue “sound polices” when there is a change in administration… when such initiatives and approaches have been shown to have clear economic benefits.”
As it relates to the unemployment rate, which is at its lowest in over 10 years, Golding said despite the boasts by the Government, the decline in the rate started under the previous PNP administration because of the policies that were put in place.
“The Government has been crowing that unemployment has been coming down. Let me remind the nation that following its peak at 15.3 per cent in 2013 during the early days of the economic reform programme, unemployment has been trending down every year since then. By July 2015 we had brought unemployment down to 13.1 per cent, and by July 2016, we had brought it further down to 12.9 per cent.
He declared that, “We are pleased that this is continuing… it didn’t start with you (the JLP), it started with us (the PNP).”
According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), the unemployment rate stood at 10.4 per cent as of January 2018, the lowest it has been since October 2008.