Level play­ing field vi­tal to in­vestors, ‘Butch’ re­minds Gov’t

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

HOTE­LIER Gor­don ‘Butch’ Ste­wart on Tues­day pointed out the im­por­tance of a level play­ing field to busi­nesses, even as the gov­ern­ment high­lighted the changes it has made so far to en­cour­age in­vest­ment.

The is­sue was raised dur­ing a dis­cus­sion on eco­nomic growth at a news luncheon hosted by Ste­wart at the Ja­maica Ob­server for gov­ern­ment min­is­ters.

A sec­ond such luncheon was sched­uled for Thurs­day for mem­bers of the Op­po­si­tion.

“Some of us have had to go out of Ja­maica to be able to ac­cess the in­cen­tives that for­eign in­vestors get when they are com­ing here,” said Ste­wart, whose San­dals and Beaches re­sorts are sited in seven is­lands across the Caribbean. “So straight­en­ing out that play­ing field is cru­cial in or­der to get the growth that your gov­ern­ment has been really try­ing to do in more ways than one,” Ste­wart added.

De­vel­oper and Ob­server board mem­ber Phillip Gore com­mended the gov­ern­ment for its re­cent de­ci­sion to de­crease Na­tional Hous­ing Trust (NHT) mort­gage rates and in­crease the loan ceil­ing, say­ing it will stim­u­late growth in the build­ing in­dus­try.

In­di­vid­ual bor­row­ers who qual­ify for loans to pur­chase new homes or for con­struc­tion are now en­ti­tled to a max­i­mum of $5.5 mil­lion, up from $4.5 mil­lion. Two per­sons making a joint pur­chase can now get $11 mil­lion.

At the same time, the NHT has re­duced in­ter­est rates by one per­cent­age point for all new loan ap­pli­cants.

Re­spond­ing to Ste­wart and Gore, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Dr Peter Phillips said the in­cen­tive pro­gramme im­ple­mented by the gov­ern­ment is not sec­tor-spe­cific. “It’s a gen­eral low­er­ing of tax rates; it’s a gen­eral re­moval of bu­reau­cracy, but we can only do it all as we get out of the hole that we are in,” Phillips said.

“Many peo­ple don’t really check it, [but] we’ve re­duced the ef­fec­tive rate of cor­po­rate tax­a­tion, we’ve re­duced the GCT rate down­wards; we’ve re­moved most du­ties on pro­duc­tive in­puts; we’ve im­proved de­pre­ci­a­tion al­lowances dras­ti­cally, so all of that is in­cen­tives, but they spread across all sec­tors,” Phillips pointed out.

Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and Plan­ning Dr Peter Phillips (right) and San­dals Re­sorts and Ja­maica Ob­server Chair­man Gor­don ‘Butch’ Ste­wart at a news luncheon at the Ob­server’s Berech­wood Av­enue, Kingston, head­quar­ters. (PHOTO: JOSEPH WELLING­TON)

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