Jamaican Government to provide support for some motorists in light of rising fuel prices


The Jamaica government says it will provide J$25,000 (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) in vouchers to operators of public passenger vehicles, including route taxi operators and contract carriage operators, to cushion the rising cost of fuel.

The government says the program will cost an estimated J$600 million.

Oil prices have been increasing since Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine, resulting in many Caribbean countries having to face increased prices for petroleum products.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke, ending the 2022-2023 national budget debate, told legislators that the voucher program will begin towards the latter half of April and will be administered by the Transport Authority under the guidance of the Minister of Transport and Mining, Audley Shaw.

He said in addition, the government will make available J$200 million in revolving loan financing for public passenger vehicle operators, which will be available through Microcredit and Approved Financial Institutions, through the Development Bank of Jamaica.

“This financing will be available for short-term loans for tires, batteries and spare parts required for public transportation operations. As we provide some relief, we appeal to public transportation operators to abide by the fares set by the regulatory authority,” Clarke said.

Clarke also announced that the government will be making a 20 percent contribution towards the electricity bills for approximately 450,000 low and middle-income households, consuming up to 200 kilowatt-hours per month, over the next four months, under the proposed We CARE Energy Co-Pay Program.

Clarke said the initiative will cost approximately two billion dollars and is being implemented as a temporary intervention to cushion the impact of higher electricity prices on the most vulnerable. These increases have been sparked by hikes in global oil prices, largely fueled by the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

He said the intervention, which forms part of an overall J$3.7-billion package of social assistance support, will be extended to prepaid and postpaid Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) customers between April and July.

Clarke said the target beneficiaries will also include some “middle” bracket customers who, “while not particularly associated with lower incomes, [are] not associated with higher income either”.

He told legislators that prepaid JPS customers who pay in advance for small amounts of electricity at a time will receive bonus credit from the government representing 20 percent of the top-up sum purchased.

“We are concerned that [for] those on lower incomes… more and more of their income is consumed by electricity consumption… at this time. So, when we construct social-assistance policies to respond to times like these, we wish to target lower-income groups.

It is only morally right that the proceeds of social-assistance resources go to these persons first,” he maintained.

He said the government, through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), has been regularizing communities where unauthorized electricity was “once the norm”.

He told Parliament that the government will increase the allocation towards transportation assistance for students on the Program of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) by 40 percent, costing an additional J$152 million.

These initiatives are part of the government’s overall social assistance support of J$3.7 billion.

Clarke also announced that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service (MOFPS) has obtained Cabinet approval to exempt lithium-ion batteries from General Consumption Tax (GCT) and the new measure will be implemented in the first quarter of this financial year, which begins on April 1.

He said in keeping with the thrust of the National Energy Policy, the MOFPS has been updating its strategy to encourage the use of energy-efficient technologies.

“From as early as 2013, the MOFPS incentivized the use of selected energy-efficient technologies by suspending the Common External Tariff (CET) and granting GCT exemption on the importation of such items.

“We recognize that lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that use lithium-ions as the primary component of its electrolyte, commonly used for portable electronics and electric vehicles. Their popularity has been growing as an energy-storage technology, which should help to reduce the cost associated with the generation of electricity,” he added.

Clarke said the Ministry has already provided relief of the CET on such batteries and now believes the time is right to exempt these batteries from GCT.


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