THIS WEEK’S TOP NEWS STORIES
SHAW PLANS TO INCREASE INCOME TAX THRESHOLD TO $1 MILLION—05/10/16
Jamaica’s Finance Minister Audley Shaw announced that the tax threshold for pay-as-you-earn workers will be raised to $1 million beginning in July 2016. The increase represents a variation of the campaign promise made by the Jamaica Labor Party to free workers earning up to $1.5 million of tax obligations while retaining the $592,800 threshold for other workers. The campaign promise was called unworkable and inequitable by critics, but Shaw said he had considered all comments and plans to increase the threshold to $1.5 million on April 1, 2017.
NATIONAL HOUSING TRUST NOT REQUIRED TO HOUSE ONLY “POORER” JAMAICANS—05/11/16
According to Dr. DK Duncan, a former Member of Parliament from the People’s National Party (PNP), the original mandate of the National Housing Trust (NHT) was not to serve the poor, but to meet housing needs of contributing workers. He noted that he served as general secretary of the PNP and was minister of national mobilization and human resource development when the NHT was established in 1976, and that he did not recall that the intent of those instituting the trust was not to serve the poor but that ” that its mandate was to serve its contributors, not necessarily poor people.” He also indicated that, in 1976, the administration had a Ministry of Housing that provided housing solutions for the poor, and that Hugh Lawson Shearer, president of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, cooperated with Manley on using the trust as a way to provide housing for workers.
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES KNEW ABOUT PERMIT BREACHES AT ROYALTON—05/12/16
Reports obtained through the Access to Information Act indicate that a number of agencies of the Jamaican government were aware of a series of permit breaches at the Blue Diamond Royalton Hotel in Negril, where a building collapsed on May 10, 2016, injuring at least five construction workers. The documents show that the government agencies knew of the breaches as far back as November 2015. The reports obtained list the permit holder as BBNH Resorts Limited, which was permitted to construct and operate a hotel or resort complex of 501 rooms or more. The reports reveal a significant degree of non-compliance only two months into the life of the permit. According to the reports, “As at December 17, 2015, the permittee was in breach of 18 specific conditions of the 29 that were evaluated on that visit.”
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THIS WEEK’S TOP JAMAICAN DIASPORA NEWS
DIASPORA HAS MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT REINSTATEMENT OF HANGING—05/11/16
Jamaicans living in the United States have shown a united front in calling for stronger actions to fight killings and violence on the home island, but they are divided about whether or not the punishment of hanging should be reinstated. Jamaicans in the Diaspora reacted to a disclosure from National Security Minister Robert Montague that the administration of Andrew Holness is considering bringing back the death penalty. Jamaicans in New York favored aggressive measure to reduce the high rate of homicide, but were not of one mind on the return of capital punishment.
THIS WEEK’S TOP BUSINESS NEWS SUMMARY
GOVERNMENT CHOOSES EIGHT RIVERS TO BUILD SOLAR PLANT—05/11/16
The Jamaican government has selected Eight Rivers to construct the 33.1 MW PV solar facility at Paradise Park. The construction is scheduled to start in July 2016. The firm’s selection was announced by the Jamaican Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR). Eight Rivers Energy Company (EREC) will build, own and operate the plant in Westmoreland, bringing a proposed lowest electricity cost of 8.54 US cents per kilowatt hour. The company’s bid is must cheaper than tariffs proposed for the projects. Eight Rivers is an international, independent power producer created by a partnership between Rekamnier Frontier Ventures, based in the United Kingdom, and Neoen, a French renewable energy group. It was chosen from a group of 18 bids received by OUR.
THIS WEEK’S TOP ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
NO FOREIGN ACTS FOR SUMFEST 2016—05/11/16
Joe Bogdanovich, the new owner of the Reggae Sumfest brand, has decided that there will be no international night for the 16th annual staging of the event. The festival of music has been reduced from three nights to two nights, and will have Dancehall Night on Friday, July 22, 2016, and Reggae Night on Saturday, July 23. Reggae Night will replace International Night. Bogdanovich said that the cost of getting international acts for the event has become too high and that he would rather put money toward supporting local talent. It can cost as much as US$2 million to book an international act, he said, and if he continued to get international acts, the cost of tickets would become prohibitively expensive for average Jamaicans. In the future, the event’s organizers hope to secure international sponsorships. For 2016, Sumfest will provide free live streaming across the global to promote the event internationally.
THIS WEEK’S TOP SPORTS NEWS
THOMPSON LOOKS TO BREAK 100-METER NATIONAL RECORD—05/12/16
Elaine Thompson, the 200-meter silver medalist from the World Championships, plans to run faster than any Jamaican in history in the 100-meter event. Currently, the Jamaican national 100-meter record is 10.70. Thompson ran the distance in 10.71 seconds at National Stadium last weekend, but the time was nullified as a wind reading put the time just out of legal bounds. Previous to that achievement, Thompson’s fastest time was 10.84, but she now believes she can break Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s national record. She notes that she is not racing as much in 2016 and she did in 2015, but that she will continue training and moving toward her goal. She is paying special attention to her first 30 meters in her attempt to break the 100-meter record.