The Government has increased to $10 billion the contingency provisions within the national budget to offset the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke made the announcement in the House of Representatives Tuesday while noting that the banking sector has agreed to forgo the reduction in asset tax announced recently for one year.
He disclosed that the move will add $3 billion to the $7 billion COVID-19 Contingency Fund. The reduction in asset tax would have taken effect April 1.
“The asset tax is a tax on consumers and not good for monetary transmission. However, given the impact of the measures taken to protect the health of the Jamaican people, we will be accelerating the intervention and deploying it directly to those who need it most. The Fiscal Contingency is just that. It is a contingency and not a commitment to spend,” he said.
He further disclosed that the Government is implementing and considering further fiscal action to cushion the economic impact of COVID-19.
The measures include a waiver on the special consumption tax on approximately 100,000 litres of alcohol for use in the making of sanitisers. He said it will be donated to the National Health Fund and Ministry of Health and Wellness, adding that it will ensure that sanitisers remain available in Jamaica.
“We will also waive Customs Duty on the importation of masks, gloves, hand sanitisers and liquid hand soap for a 90-day period,” he said. He said measures are also being put in place to allow remote work in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.