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El próximo 25 de febrero Jamaica celebrará sus elecciones generales. Se escogerán los 65 escaños de la Cámara de Representantes y el líder de la agrupación política que obtenga más bancas será electo primer ministro para los próximos cinco años. Se presentan un total de 152 candidatos que pertenecen al gobernante Partido Popular Nacional de Jamaica (PNP), de los opositores Partido Laborista (JLP), Movimiento Nacional Democrático y Partido Político del Pueblo, además de algunos independientes.

Electoral Office of Jamaica says it is ready for police, military, and Election Day workers

Voting in the country’s 17th general election since the advent of Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944 starts this morning at 8:00 when members of the police, military and Election Day workers start casting their ballots at 195 polling locations across the island.

A total of 26,498 Election Day workers, 10,041 members of the police force, and 2,569 soldiers are on the current voters’ list.
Under the Representation of the People Act, provisions are made for military and police personnel, as well as Election Day workers, to vote three days before the general population to ensure that they are available for duty on Election Day.
Director of Elections Orrette Fisher says it is “all systems go” for today’s vote while further informing that preparations are in high gear and running smoothly when the majority of the over 1.8 million enumerated Jamaicans are expected to go to the polls on Thursday.

  “The names of all selected Election Day workers, police and military personnel have been separated from the official voters’ list to be used on Election Day. The special services personnel will vote at the voting location closest to where they are based. The ballots will later be sorted and transferred to the respective returning officers to be counted on February 25.

The list of polling locations for today’s vote includes schools, churches, police stations, court houses and military bases.
“We are ready for tomorrow (today). Everything is in place and we are working to ensure a smooth day of voting. It is a case of all systems go,” Fisher told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Fisher cautioned that “police and military personnel, as well as Election Day workers who wish to vote must do so today as they will not be able to vote on February 25, as the civilian list is the only list that will be used on that day”.

“We at the EOJ have worked closely with the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force to ensure that the lists for police and military voters were prepared in time. We have also informed Election Day workers of their voting day through phone calls, text messages and via the media. The polling stations and staff are equipped and ready to go, so we are expecting the proceedings to go smoothly,” he said.

Commenting further on preparations for Thursday, Fisher indicated that nearly all the ballot papers have been printed and safely secured and that Election Day workers are ready to deal with all eventualities.

“I can confirm that all ballots for the general election have been printed and have been put in a safe place awaiting Thursday’s poll,” he said. “The Electoral Office has completed all the necessary training and more of all Election Day workers and we are just waiting now to start issuing ballots, which will take place later this week.”

Polling stations for today’s vote close at 4:00 pm, while on Thursday the polls are scheduled to open at 7:00 am and close at 5:00 pm.

Jamaica Observer

Holness defends tax plan, urges J’cans to vote PNP out of office

Andrew Holness last night delivered a passionate defence of his party’s income tax plan, insisting that local and international experts believe it is the best way to stimulate the Jamaican economy, and told thousands of cheering Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters in Half-Way-Tree that change is coming to the country.

“I know you can feel the momentum building for a change in Jamaica,” Holness said. “It is unstoppable. It is a runaway victory that will sweep away every zinc fence in every lane when we implement our rural and urban renewal plans, especially for the urban areas of our cities and major towns.”

Holness, the JLP and Opposition leader, used his speech to scold the Portia Simpson Miller-led Government for its failures, such as the fire at Riverton dump, the dead babies and Outameni scandals, the outbreak of the chikungunya virus, the distribution of contaminated petrol, and urged Jamaicans to vote them out of power in Thursday’s general election.

“They promised better economic management, yet you have suffered because they froze your wages, while 40 per cent of your purchasing power was eaten away by the slide in the Jamaican dollar,” Holness said.

“And even though our dollar is cheaper, which means our goods should be cheaper overseas, our exports fall every year; and every time the dollar devalues the national debt grows. That policy has only hurt Jamaicans,” he added.

Turning to his income tax proposal, which has been heavily criticised by the PNP as unworkable, Holness said that several tax studies on Jamaica have all concluded that the country should move away from income taxes to consumption taxes.

“In 2009 we had doubled the income threshold from $220,000 to $440,000. At that time, 139,000 workers no longer paid income tax. That is one of the reasons why we were able to withstand the shock of the worst depression and oil price shock. So it may sound new and novel to those who have short memories, but this is something that the Labour Party has done before and been successful,” Holness said.

He said in 2011 when he became prime minister, the head of the Private Sector Working Group on Tax Reform, Joe Matalon, came to him with a proposal to further lift the income tax threshold from $440,000 to $1,000,000.

“This was part of the plan that we had agreed to at the time, along with other tax reform measures. So as far back as then this was being contemplated. Furthermore, we have consulted with several local and international experts in the field. They all think it is the best way to stimulate our economy,” Holness added.

Yesterday, Matalon revealed in a Gleaner column that he was author of a private sector group analysis that deemed Holness’s plan to get rid of personal income tax for everyone who earns a gross salary of $1.5 million or less as unworkable.
The income tax proposal is part of a 10-point plan that Holness said a government led by him would implement for economic growth.

Under the plan, persons earning above $1.5 million and less than $5 million will continue being subjected to the 25 per cent tax on income in excess of the current $592,800 threshold, while anyone earning income in excess of $5 million per year will be taxed at the rate of 25 per cent of their entire income.

Responding to critics of the plan, Holness said he and his team were confident in their numbers, because they have been thoroughly researched.

“Moreover, our plan will not affect government revenue. It will not be inflationary because there is productive capacity in Jamaica to respond to increased demand. In fact, there will be a positive impact for your household and for our economy. Together we can build a better Jamaica,” Holness said.

Jamaica Observer

Election will be close, says T&T political analyst

POLITICAL analyst Derek Ramsamooj believes Thursday’s general election will be very close, but will come down to a fight for the 10 to 15 marginal constituencies in which candidates in the respective seats will have to work hard to get their supporters out.

The Trinidad-based political analyst, who has been observing elections in the Caribbean for more than 25 years, was in Jamaica in late 2015 when the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) put the nation on election alert, and returned late when Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced the election date at a mass rally held in Half-Way-Tree, the St Andrew capital.

He said he observed that like other countries in the region, the trends and influences in the Jamaica are influenced by party loyalty, political leadership, national appeal, based on issues and candidates at the constituency level.

The London School of Economics and Harvard-educated Ramsamooj said both the PNP and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have been using different types of messages to attract the electorate — the PNP banking on the progress it has made to date; and the JLP on its ability to secure a better Jamaica through its partnership for prosperity.

 “Despite the big rallies being held today (JLP in Half-Way-Tree and PNP in Montego Bay), the next four days are going to be crucial for the political parties, which will need to be on the ground to win voter support.

What matters is effective mobilisation,” he said. He added that incentives being offered in the national campaigns will influence the voting pattern on election day.

“I have observed, using scientific data, that the race has tightened and will come down to the marginal constituencies, based on a number of factors,” said Ramsamooj.
Among them, he said, are:
• Job creation;
• National security ;
• Quality of life issues, such as having more money in their pocket;
• Housing; and
• The ability to create and attract investment.
However, he told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview, at his hotel in Kingston yesterday, that the message from the JLP seems to be resonating more with the people.

“The majority of individuals I have spoken with hold the belief that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) achievements under the PNP have been at the expense of the people,” he said.

“Overall, there are sentiments that [the country needs] a leadership style that will create the environment to balance the IMF conditionalaties, while creating the opportunity to improve the quality of life for the people,” he added.

In the meantime, he said the greatest voter apathy is among the 18 to 40-odd age group, which represents a fertile political opportunity for Holness, who is only 43, to establish greater connectivity by “providing sustainable leadership to enhance their quality of life”.

According to Ramsamooj, electors in the 18 to 40-odd age group also want to know which leader can the population trust to provide the solutions , not only meeting the needs of the global financial institutions, but the needs of the people at the community level.

“… There is a critical role for the State to use local resources in establishing conditions that will meet the needs of families most in need,” he said.

At the same time, Ramsamooj said Jamaican voters will need to demonstrate in this parliamentary election if they want to maintain the ‘garrison phenomenon’ in the constituencies or look at leadership where representation is of paramount importance.

Meanwhile, he said the refusal of the PNP leadership to engage the JLP in a national debate could have consequences for the ruling party, as the uncommitted should be given the opportunity to decide if Simpson Miller should be given another term as prime minister in accounting for her stewardship, or allow them to make up their minds if the JLP will provide the leadership that allows a better quality of life for families across Jamaica.

He pointed out that the former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar refused to debate her rival Keith Rowley and paid for the consequences.

Persad-Bissessar, he said, appeared on a television programme with journalists, similar to what was being planned by the RJR Group, but noted that such a forum is a question and answer session and cannot be compared to a debate.

Jamaica Observer