PNP says it can deliver on $72.5-billion social programme

PNP says it can deliver on $72.5-billion social programme

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, August 28, 2020

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THE Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) says it has the track record to back its promise to deliver $72.5 billion worth of social assistance and economic stimulus programmes.

The party says there will be no new taxes to fund the ambitious slew of programmes, and that it will instead draw on the Consolidated Fund, the Universal Service Fund, the HEART Trust, the National Housing Trust and dormant bank accounts.

Party President Dr Peter Phillips, and a line-up of candidates who hope to form the next Government, outlined details of the initiatives yesterday at a virtual press briefing, hours before a scheduled debate on finance and economics by PNP spokesman on finance Mark Golding and the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Dr Nigel Clarke, the finance minister.

“We have done it before and we will do it again; we are going to do similar things again and we are going to add to those things. The record is what should give you the assurance,” he stated.

Chairman of the PNP’s manifesto committee Damion Crawford pointed out that the party has delivered on infrastructure such as highway 2000, and housing. “History is a good predictor of what will come in the future,” he remarked.

“Recent history should be a good indicator to Jamaicans about the capacity of the leadership of the PNP to deliver Jamaica through some very serious times,” candidate for Kingston Central Imani Duncan Price said, pointing to the efforts of the PNP’s Administration of 2011 to 2016.

Dr Phillips, meanwhile, made it clear that should his party form the next Government there will be no returning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite the worsening economic conditions and projections of seven to 10 per cent negative growth in the current fiscal year due to the novel coronavirus.

“We don’t believe that you need to tighten the economy in a situation when it is contracting. We have made the sacrifices already through running tight and balanced budgets, now we can introduce some slack so that we are able to revive the economy. At the present time no one knows where the bottom of the COVID crisis is. We have no plan to return to a borrowing relationship with the fund, our plan is in fact that we would be able to finance this by being able to run a deficit to a greater degree,” he stated.

At the same time, finance spokesperson Golding stressed that instead of new taxes, what is needed are policies that will reverse the downward economic trend and stimulate the economy. “What we plan to do is reorient the discretionary portion of the budget,” he said.

Among the initiatives being promised to relieve hardship is a utilities credit package of $4,000 per month to 360,000 households in the bottom three quintiles of the society. This is projected to cost $17.28 billion.

Crawford said this is a more equitable and efficient method than the COVID assistance programme offered by the JLP Government, and would reach more people, and better stimulate the economy.

The party says a PNP Administration would offer a rent to own scheme to renters, in which a portion of rent will go towards a mortgage downpayment. It is also proposing a hard times payment moratorium on mortgages where the Government guarantees two years of interest on mortgages.

Golding said the party has already met with developers for the delivery of 130,000 housing units over five years, and that the 90-day arrears would no longer be used as a yardstick for default.

The party says it will also deliver on its promise of one university scholarship per household, providing 10,000 scholarships per year, and that community centres will be equipped with free Wi-Fi at a cost of $900 million per year. It is also proposing a universal health insurance coverage of $5,100 monthly for 360,000 households. This is expected to cost $22 billion per annum from the Consolidated Fund.

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