FINANCE Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has said that there will be no new taxes for a fifth consecutive fiscal year, while sidestepping calls for a reduction in the fuel tax in favour of targeted intervention to help the most vulnerable cope with the rising cost of energy.
“It is also a fact that the price of unleaded petroleum has risen by almost 50 per cent in the last 12 months,” Clarke outlined. The price of oil surged further on Tuesday, after US President Joe Biden announced a ban on imports of Russian oil causing worries that global supplies would be disrupted.
After Biden’s announcement of the Russian oil ban, the price of a barrel of US crude rose 3.6 per cent to settle at US$123.70. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 3.9 per cent to US$127.98. Both grades are selling for the highest prices since 2008.
“The Government recognises that many Jamaicans are suffering from this significant increase in price,” Clarke outline. “As such, we will establish a special provision, in the amount of $2 billion, to provide targeted support to those who are most adversely affected, and who have the least ability to absorb the impact of high gas and energy prices,” he added.
The minister argued that such an intervention will “provide relief to taxi operators, who have fixed fares, and some towards providing transportation support to children on PATH [Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education]”. He added that the Government will dialogue with stakeholders on the best methodology for allocation of this support with the details to be announced shortly.
Clarke also indicated that the Government will be pushing a programme to have Jamaicans switch to electric-powered vehicles to help reduce the countries dependence on oil.
As part of encouraging Jamaicans to purchase electric vehicles, Clarke told the House that the Government will reduce the import duty on electric motor vehicles from 30 per cent to 10 per cent, for an initial five-year period, while “exempting the annual registration fees on battery electric vehicles”.