Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke says the $10 billion budgeted to support the economy during the period in which businesses are affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is not “intended to subsidize profits.”
Support measures announced by the government include a new Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash), which will provide temporary cash transfers to registered businesses operating in the hotel, tours, and attraction companies.
These operators in the tourism industry who are licensed with the Jamaica Tourist Board, and will receive the transfers based on the number of workers they keep employed. The workers should fall under the income tax threshold of $1.5 million.
In his closing 2020-2021 Budget Presentation on Tuesday, Clarke said: “we will subsidise people but it is not reasonable to expect the government to subsidise profits.”
He noted that people, businesses and the government will experience losses from the pandemic and it is the government’s first priority “to protect the neediest people from the worst effects of this COVID-19 crisis.”
At the same time, he noted, the public interest is served by “doing all we can to maintain productive capacity, which if lost takes years to rebuild.”
Clarke said he expected “those with personal and corporate reserves, who operate businesses that are affected by the effects of the pandemic to put those reserves to work.”
He noted that, to the extent that conditions deteriorate the government will favour market-based solutions.