Keep TEF separate from Consolidated Fund
The following is an open letter to the Audley Shaw, minister of finance:
It is with deep disappointment that it has come to the knowledge of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association that the Government intends to move the funds held in the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) into the Consolidated Fund.
The JHTA, as the representative of the tourism sector, was not consulted on these plans, but even more importantly, our objections are based on the fact that these funds are specifically for investment in the infrastructural enhancement of the tourism sector as a whole.
Mr Minister, you will recall that the TEF was designed to remove the heavy burden from the Jamaican taxpayer and it is directly funded by a charge on the airline tickets of arriving visitors; one of the reasons these funds are held and managed separately from that of the Consolidated Fund.
The JHTA is a key stakeholder in the policy and administration of these funds, and we are specifically spelt out in the TEF Act as representatives on its board. Having partnered with successive administrations on the management of these funds, we take great offence to even the remote possibility that the funds of the TEF could be arbitrarily removed from the oversight of the board.
The investment of the funds, since its establishment in 2004, has indisputably been held in safe accounts with respectable returns. The JHTA cannot stand by and see this important fund dismantled by what seems to be an ill-conceived intent to garnish the funds for use in areas that will not be for the growth and benefit of the tourism industry.
The Act is very clear on the purposes of the fund and today 50 per cent is used to market the destination, while the other 50 per cent is used to maintain and develop the tourism product. There is still much to do across the country to build the industry and maintain its competitiveness, and we cannot stand by and see this vision diluted.
Minister Shaw, we stand willing and ready to meet with you and the minister of tourism to understand your thinking on this issue, but we wish to be very clear that the protection of the TEF is very important to the JHTA, and we are prepared to protect it to the fullest extent.
Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association