…as Jagdeo vows to remove VAT from electricity, water, pharmaceuticals
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) says it will repeal all of the draconian and offensive measures being foisted on the nation by the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Administration when it regains the reins of executive power and is back in Office.
Former President and now Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo gave the commitment on Friday as he wrapped up the PPP/C’s contribution to the debates on the 2017 National Estimates presented to the nation on November 28 last by Finance Minister Winston Jordan.
Jagdeo vowed to remove the Value Added Tax (VAT) that has be imposed on electricity, water, educational and medical supplies and services.
In wrapping up his presentation which lasted just under two hours Jagdeo said that when the PPP/C is back in power it will immediately reinstate the subsidy on lights and
electricity that were removed from pensioners.
Jagdeo told the House that the PPP/C has opted for this course of action given the intransigence of the Government to heed the calls of the political Opposition and withdraw the budget and use the remaining time permitted by the Constitution of Guyana to craft another one.
He lamented the fact that the debaters of the Government instead of defending the $250 billion Budget presented by Minister Jordan, instead opted to launch character assassinations of individuals in the hierarchy of the PPP/C.
According to Jagdeo, even if the Government were to believe that the PPP/C Administration was flawed during its tenure of Office, it is the APNU/AFC Government which is now under scrutiny.
Jagdeo told the House the Administration cannot, “set what we did in the past as the standard for their behaviour…they have to be judged on the basis of what they promised the people.” He said anything short of that will prove to the populace, “that they were just fooling them into voting for them but they had no intention of fulfilling the promises.”
The former President said anything in the budget as proposed by the Minister of Finance that will enhance growth and development of Guyana and the welfare of its people will be supported: “We cannot do otherwise because the majority of the things we see reflected in their programmes are things that we left…it would be hypocritical of us not to support our own plans.”
The taxation and other measures, according to Jagdeo, cannot be supported since it will inherently bring about burdens.
The Opposition Leader said what the APNU/AFC Administration has put forward is no investments and more taxes that will increase the cost of living for all Guyanese.
Speaking to some of the contentious measures in the Budget such as the adjustments in the VAT regime, Jagdeo took a swipe at Government speakers who suggested that the changes had come about because of studies undertaken in part by international consultants.
The former President was adamant that, “this slavish mentality to studies done by foreigners is unbelievable.”
Jagdeo said neither of the two studies referred to by the finance minister as having informed the decisions to adjust the VAT regime has in fact been presented to the nation or the National Assembly.
He told the House that there are literally hundreds of international studies done on a range of matters, sometimes by persons just out of University and they “come a tell a whole country what to do.”
He told the debate that when international studies are submitted judgement has to be exercised in Cabinet since studies can recommend anything under the sun.
According to the Opposition Leader, “any President worth his salt would never allow any CARTAC study or any other study to come here and tell us what to do in a sovereign country and use that as a justification for passing on a burden.”
Jagdeo recalled that during the negotiations for the implementation of VAT in 2007 he was told that the 16 per cent rate would have to be applied across the board and, “I said not while I am President.”
Expanding on the VAT provision as outlined by Minister Jordan, the former Head of State said that the figures are in fact being disguised since the actual collections would in fact surpass the projections envisioned.
According to Jagdeo, even with the reduction in the VAT rate from 16 to 14 per cent the total collections will surpass what had been collected in the past since the 14 per cent will now be applicable to commodities and services that had not previously attracted the tax.
He told the House that Government should have been losing out on just over $4.4 billion with the reduction of the VAT rate but with the application of the tax on previously nontaxable or zero-rated items the windfall on VAT now skyrockets by 38 per cent.
Rejecting what he termed measures against the local productive sector he drew reference to the Environmental Tax.
According to Jagdeo, the APNU/AFC Administration had objected when the PPP/C attempted to reduce the tax on imports down from $10 per bottle to $5.
At the time the tax had only been applied to imports but was found to be in violation of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Government has since decided to apply the tax across the board and according to Jagdeo, this will result in one local company having to fork out in excess of $1 billion annually.
Jagdeo used the Budget discussion to dissect some of the measures outlined by Minister Jordan, which he said will in fact add costs, thereby negating all of the supposed benefits.
Dismissing the proposals outlined in the Budget as ‘kakanomic’ on the part of Minister Jordan, the Opposition Leader said his figures as outlined and projected are suspect, to say the least.
He used the occasion to contribute to a third debate as Opposition Leader to rehash criticism he would have previously levelled over the APNU/AFC disregard for the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
Among the flagship projects under the LCDS is the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Project which Jagdeo predicted will be resuscitated in the near future by the current Administration but will be renamed, given APNU/AFC’s penchant for renaming PPP/C projects and initiatives.
At the end of his nearly two-hour presentation, Jagdeo used the opportunity to inform the House that the Opposition would not in fact be staying for the conclusion of debate, namely the presentation by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and the rebuttal from Finance Minister Winston Jordan. (Gary Eleazar; Guyana Times)