…it remains a choice of the parent
“VAT is not a cure for social ills; it is first and foremost a fiscal tool. I said we are aiming to reduce VAT but in doing so we will seek to broaden the base as wide as possible. There is no VAT on public education, it remains a choice of the parent. Government is not making that choice for them.”
These were the words of Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who was quoted in other sections of the media signaling Government’s position on the 14 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) that was applied to the private education on February 1, 2017.
Since its application, Government’s 14 per cent tax on private education has received widespread condemnation.
School of the Nations, a private educational institute, has been at the forefront of the calls for the ‘burdensome’ 14 per cent VAT to be alleviated.
The Director of the private institution, Dr Brian O’Toole, had penned a letter, which was published by Inews, outlining the constraints that this additional 14 per cent tax would have on the specified education sector.
He had noted that while the tax might not affect the affluent in society the poorer parents who struggle to send their kids to the same school will be severely affected.
However, Minister Jordan’s contentions surmises that if the parents ‘choose’ to send their children to private schools then they should afford the price as there is no VAT on public education.
O’Toole in the introduction of his letter to Inews had said that “I am neither a politician nor am I an Economist. I am simply an Educator. Having lived in Guyana for the past 38 years, my wife and I started School of Nations more than twenty years ago. We began School of Nations for very simple reasons, our two sons attended one of the leading Secondary schools in Georgetown. Each evening, when we sat down to eat and asked about their day at school, they said they had two or three classes with no teacher. We visited the school, met the Head Mistress and were casually informed, ‘don’t worry … we may get a Maths teacher next year.’ That was motivation enough to try and offer an alternative.”
Following the Director’s pronouncements, a petition named “Education is a Necessity, Let it be VAT free” was implemented calling for an appeal to the recent imposition of 14 per cent VAT on education-related expenses.
The petition which can be found at https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/education-vat-free has in its preamble that their appeal “is not presented with any political agenda nor is it presented as an appeal on behalf of private schools. Rather it is presented as an issue which affects us all in Guyana.”
It goes on further to state that “the imposition of the 14% VAT on private schools however will, of course, impact very heavily on the children and youth attending those schools. For some, the perception is that anyone who attends a private school must be wealthy. That perception may be true for a certain percentage but, for the majority, attendance at such schools often represents a real sacrifice by a family member…The students have been informed, a few days ago, that with immediate effect, their fees have now been increased by 14%. A number of these students pay the fees in G$100 bills, this new imposition may simply mean they stop the course, stay home and lose hope and add to the growing numbers of the unemployed and unemployable.”
The goal of the petition which is to get 20,000 signatures has since garnered 2,476 signatures from its recent inception.