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.
– Jamaica Observer