Portia Simpson Miller, the president of the People’s National Party (PNP), said on Tuesday (Feb 16, 2016) that the party would move Jamaica to a First-World nation if given the opportunity by the voters to manage the nation’s affairs for another five years.
Simpson Miller, speaking at the launch of the PNP’s 2016 election manifesto in Kingston, said that her party’s number-one priority in the next term would be education.
The PNP’s manifesto comprises 21 “further steps to progress”, a continuation of 18 steps to “full people empowerment” that it articulated in 2011.
Among the priorities outlined were the implementation of tax reform policies and the elimination of the shift system in schools by 2018-2019.
“Jamaica stands at the intersection of hope and history,” said Simpson Miller, while adding that there is a basis for hope.
“We have laid the foundation for substantial and sustainable economic growth. The basis is being laid for First-World education and training; First-World level of job creation, business start-ups, and wealth creation,” she said.
“Beyond the customary noise or exuberance of an election campaign, there is the national and international acknowledgment that at long last, Jamaica is getting its social and economic house in order,” Simpson Miller said.
The party has promised to reduce personal income and general consumption taxes but declined to say precisely by how much or when it would implement these reforms if it is returned to office in the general election.
Taxation has become a major issue in the campaign since the Jamaica Labour Party pledged to increase the income tax threshold by 153 per cent, to J$1.5 million, a move that the finance minister said would remove more than 260,000 people from the tax roll and cost more than $30 billion.
Dr Peter Phillips, the PNP campaign director, has said that the move to increase the income tax threshold is unaffordable at this time.
“I am not going to give here a commitment as to the pace of doing so precisely because our intention is to continue to maintain a balanced budget and to reduce our debt,” Phillips said on Feb 16.
“What we want to do is something that is prudent,” he said.
The PNP, in its 2016 election manifesto published on Feb 16, said that if re-elected for a second term, it would raise the income tax threshold, lower the rate for personal income tax, general consumption tax and reduce custom duties on consumer goods.
Simpson Miller said that during her travels across Jamaica, she got the feeling that Jamaicans were confident that things would improve.
“We are on course for the most fundamental, positive transformation of our economy and society. The people of Jamaica are determined that after the sacrifices they have made, they will not miss out on the transformation that has started and will be accelerated over the next five years,” she said.
Simpson Miller said that her administration has ended Jamaica’s “problematic history of a growing national debt”.
“With discipline and leadership, we have brought our country to a point of stability that the entire world has recognised,” she said.
“We are proud of our achievements on behalf of the Jamaican people, and now we look to the people with confidence. We are inviting the people of Jamaica to walk boldly with us into another term of governance. One good term deserves another,” the PNP president said.
Robert Pickersgill, chairman of the PNP, said that the manifesto, in addition to outlining the intentions to create at least 100,000 jobs over the next five years, shows that the PNP is serious about combating crime.
“This manifesto is our covenant with the people of Jamaica as we plot the country’s future and the social development of our people in a new deal,” Pickersgill said.
But the Jamaica Labour Party says that the PNP’s manifesto comes with a huge price tag “but little state resources to fund this extravagant expenditure”.
“Our people can no longer afford this Government. For far too long, the PNP has used the Jamaican people as an ATM. Jamaica deserves a new government with fresh ideas that will modernise and grow our economy. We cannot continue to increase government spending while people struggle to feed their family,” the JLP said.
But Simpson Miller continues to jab at the JLP, which has been touting its 10-point plan as the way to go.
“We have never plucked figures out of thin air. We have never made empty promises. The PNP has never sought to fool the people of Jamaica. The reputation has never allowed us to do so in the past, and our abundant respect for the people of Jamaica will not permit us to do so now,” she said.