Opposition wants to haul Junior Finance Minister before Privileges Committee

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By Ramona Luthi

Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharrat Jagdeo is considering having Junior Minister of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma, taken before the Privileges Committee of Parliament after his statement that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) gave $55 billion in tax breaks to friends and acquaintances.

As Jagdeo defended himself earlier today against this erroneous claim by the junior minister, he highlighted that under the PPP/C, concessions were given to individuals and organizations such as re-migrants, churches, businesses and hospitals.

Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma speaking in the National Assembly earlier this week

He asserted that in this regard, he was deliberating contemplating taking the Junior Minister of Finance before the Privileges Committee of Parliament for the false allegation.

“I am tempted to take Sharma before the Committee of Privileges for this but it may not make sense. We have heard from Winston Jordan once, saying that the $55B of remissions, tax remissions were given to friends and family of the PPP, in the past. Sharma repeated this and he said, in his budget speech and I see it headlined in the newspapers, that we gave $55B of tax breaks to friends and acquaintances of the PPP,” Jagdeo said.

He further explained that anyone who heard this from Sharma would think “hold on a minute, these people must have been messing with our revenue, giving $55B of tax breaks to their friends and acquaintances. This warrants exploration.”

Jagdeo went on to defend himself further as he referred media operatives to Appendix 8 of the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan’s budget speech.

“The last budget speech, and they sought to categorize these tax remissions, who it went to. So in 2015 $47B of tax remissions. It went to hospitals, companies and businesses, churches and charitable organisations, public officials/officers, Ministries and Government departments, re-migrants, diplomats and foreign funded projects. That’s where the tax remission went to, not friends and family of PPP,” he clarified.

Moreover, Dr Jagdeo noted that the Government has been cutting this amount specifically from companies, churches and charitable organisations, and re-migrants while increasing the amount in Government departments to benefit themselves.

“What I argued in the budget speech is that they’ve been cutting this, but look where they’re cutting. Companies have their tax remissions reduced from $35.6B in 2015 to $30.3B in 2016, so they have removed $5B from companies in Guyana, not PPP family and friends….On churches and charitable organizations, it was $2B , they reduced it by $600M,so it’s now $1.4B. On re-migrants, it was $1.9B of remissions, it came to $1.2…but look at where it increased, Ministries or Government Departments was $2.9B in 2015 and that figure went to $4.3B in 2016,” Jagdeo pointed out.

Junior Minister, Jaipaul Sharma had stated on Monday during his Tax Motion presentation that the PPP/C gave $55B in tax breaks to its friends and family. However he did not produce any reports from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to support this contention, but he was still adamant that his figures were factual.

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