President of the Western Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Glen O Samuels is calling on the Government to forego the tax now collected on travel allowance paid to men of the cloth. Samuels, who said he was speaking on behalf of all pastoral districts across Jamaica, said the spiralling price of fuel is putting a dent in the pockets of pastors as they travel to minister to their flock.
He has asked minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister, Homer Davis to pass on the message.
“We have 52 pastoral districts [whose pastors] travel back and forth every day, representing the pain of the people. Many of them, their homes are used for counselling [sessions]. Would it not be a very kind gesture if the tax on the travel that we pay to our pastors could be reduced by the Ministry of Finance, allowing our hard-working pastors just to benefit a little more from what we pay them for their travel — considering, Mr Minister, that the gas pump is not a friendly place?” Samuels asked.
His comments came last Saturday during a gathering at the Kings Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mount Salem, Montego Bay.
“The travel we pay them is fixed while the pump is running away from them. It’s just a message to carry back to the other side,” he suggested to Davis, who represented Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the event.
During the meeting Samuels and his team of administrators were re-elected to lead the Western Jamaica Conference for the next four years. His comments came after their re-installation ceremony.
“We speak not just for the 52 pastoral districts in the west but we have 167 pastoral districts across Jamaica who bear the same pain. And strengthen your argument as you take the message back,” he implored Davis. “It is 29 per cent tax. I thank you, Mr Minister, for being a faithful messenger. You brought [the prime minister’s] message safely here… and we trust your integrity to carry the other message safely there and deliver it safely there,” he urged.
Climbing fuel prices, exacerbated by the conflict in the Ukraine, have been a source of concern for all sectors of the local and global economy. An increase in the price of fuel pushes up prices overall as it impacts production costs. The call from the religious leader comes on the heels of other requests for the Andrew Holness-led Administration to put measures in place to cushion the blow.
The Government has so far ignored calls from the Opposition People’s National Party to remove a cess on the fuel tax. However it has indicated that it will provide a raft of other initiatives.
Earlier this year it announced a number of relief measures to alleviate the impact of rising prices on the vulnerable. They included $800 million to provide assistance to public transport operators; $750 million for a food assistance programme targeting 75,000 people; $152 million for an increase in the allocation toward transportation assistance to students on PATH; $2 billion to the Government Of Jamaica Energy Co-Pay, contributing 20 per cent of electricity bills for all postpaid households that consume 200kWh of electricity or less, per month, over the four-month period April 2022 to July 2022; as well as $3,000 per month over the same period for prepaid residential customers; and opened applications for a $25,000 grant to PPV operators/transport operators on June 20.
On July 5 it announced that it was pumping an additional $2.7 billion into social intervention programmes as part of measures to cushion the negative effects of rising prices, especially on the most vulnerable in the society. A total of $3.8 billion has so far been earmarked for these measures.