Government Senator Matthew Samuda says he is saddened by recent revelations by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) that poverty in Jamaica, at 21.2 per cent, has reached its second-highest level in almost two decades, according to the 2015 survey of living conditions.
This means that in 2015, almost 6,00,000 of Jamaica’s 2.8 million population were below the poverty line.
Samuda says PNP President and then Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips should account to the nation for the troubling spike which occurred under his watch.
Responding to the STATIN disclosure, Samuda said “while we were across the aisle, we had consistently warned Phillips that his slavish devotion to austerity without taking steps to alleviate the burden on the poor was devastating the people and regrettably we have been proven correct by the latest survey”.
The Government Senator further said that “make no mistake about it, the almost $60-billion in taxes which Dr Phillips had heaped on the backs of the poor during his tenure, without giving back a cent and this troubling 2015 rise in poverty according to the latest figures concretises Peter Phillips’ true legacy – indeed he has concretised his reputation not just as Papa Tax but Father Poverty”.
Samuda says the JLP administration’s successful implementation of the income tax break plan along with its 30-per cent increase in this year’s budgetary allocation to the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, (PATH) shows that it’s sensitive to the plight facing society’s most vulnerable. Senator Samuda noted that the increased PATH allocation will benefit an additional 360,000 persons. He also commended the Education, Youth and Information Ministry for moving to increase the school feeding programme from three days to five per week.
According to Samuda, the not surprising but troubling increase in the poverty rate under the watch of the current PNP President when he was Finance Minister shows the amount of work that the current administration has to do to empower the poor and dispossessed. Samuda says he has every confidence that the Holness-led administration is seized of the moment and up to the task at hand.
STATIN had also disclosed that the poverty rate was estimated at 20 per cent in the previous survey in 2014 and is second only to the 24.6 per cent recorded in 2013.