Aggressively pushing collective immunity in Jamaica in the new fiscal year, the Holness administration on Tuesday announced an allocation of $ 60 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and dedicated to social and economic recovery as part of the of an initiative called – The SERVE Jamaica program.
A one-time dividend of $ 33 billion from the Bank of Jamaica will help fund the SERVE program. It also includes $ 31.1 billion for infrastructure development – the largest amount to spend in any given fiscal year on infrastructure projects.
Finance and Civil Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, who made the announcements during the opening of the 2021-22 budget debate at Gordon House, told the country there would be no new taxes this fiscal year.
“We are prioritizing economic recovery,” Clarke said, adding that this was the sixth consecutive year in which, on a net basis, “we have not raised taxes.”
“This is the fourth fiscal year where there are no new taxes,” Clarke said to thunderous applause from the government benches.
Under the SERVE Jamaica program, the government will provide $ 10,000 to more than 100,000 people aged 60 and over who have been vaccinated.
“If you are over 60 and have no formal income and have been vaccinated, you can expect your conditional cash transfer,” he said.
Under the conditional cash transfer sub-program for the vaccinated (CCTV), persons 60 years of age and over who are not employed or who receive a pension above $ 1.5 million per year are eligible for the benefit.
However, before payment can be accessed, health ministry records will need to confirm that they have received the vaccine.
Jamaica received 50,000 doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine from India on Monday and is expected to start administering the vaccine today.
As part of SERVE Jamaica, the government will also set aside $ 3 billion for the continuation of the CARE program’s SET Unemployment Support Cash Grants for those earning below the income tax cut-off who have been in employment. unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of this amount, money will also be allocated to the CARE program BEST Cash grants that support employment in tourism for the quarter of April to June 2021. Clarke said 50,000 Jamaicans will benefit from these grants.
And Clarke has provided good news for students struggling to find two guarantors before applying for a Student Loan Bureau (SLB). He announced that as of April 1 of this year, students applying for a loan from SLB would only need one guarantor.
The finance minister said the government is also pursuing plans to change the annual income tax return and collection date from March 15 each year to April 15.
He said the change was not only appropriate for government finances, but it would also give taxpayers an extra month to prepare their tax returns and make the required payment.
“It’s extra time for taxpayers to organize themselves to achieve tax compliance. For the government, this will mean that the tax administration will now collect the top 50% of annual tax revenue in the very first month of its fiscal year, ”Clarke said.
The $ 60 billion SERVE Jamaica program will include the following:
• $ 10.5 billion in special resources for the Ministry of Health, including:
– $ 6 billion for the purchase, storage, distribution and administration of vaccines;
– $ 1 billion for personal protective equipment.
– $ 1 billion for drugs and reagents.
– $ 2 billion to regional health authorities to pay arrears to suppliers.
– $ 500 million for other expenses related to COVID-19.
Breakdown of the $ 31.1 billion for infrastructure projects that will create jobs and stimulate economic activity:
· $ 17.7 billion allocated to the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project.
· $ 8 billion for a special public infrastructure investment program.
· $ 3.7 billion for secondary roads, road repairs across Jamaica.
· $ 1.2 billion for the Montego Bay bypass.
· $ 0.5 billion for the construction of a new divisional police headquarters in Westmoreland and a new forensic room.
· $ 5 billion is targeted financing for companies in order to accelerate the digital transition of the economy.
· $ 1 billion to DBJ so that MSMEs eligible for the Go Digital grant are also eligible for a maximum of $ 800,000 in 2% interest loans to be used to support the digital transition.
· $ 2 billion to launch two investment funds exclusively focused on equity financing of MSMEs in Jamaica.
· $ 2 billion for loans to MSMEs.
· $ 1.7 billion for production incentives to farmers and further rehabilitation of roads in rural farming communities to stimulate recovery in the agricultural sector; • $ 1.8 billion to expand WiFi and broadband in schools, communities and city centers, especially in rural areas through the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.
· $ 200 million to the National Works Agency for Riverine Training Activity, which will employ Jamaicans in rural Jamaica in necessary disaster mitigation work.
· $ 140 million to the Department of Local Government and Rural Development for municipal corporations to provide digital devices in conjunction with e-learning.
· $ 40 million to the Department of Labor and Social Security for COVID-19 grants for the disability community.
· $ 1.5 billion in other social programs to be announced by the Prime Minister that will benefit thousands more.