…as agency targets high-rise buildings
The latest decision by Government’s illegitimate anti-corruption body to scrutinise owners of high-rise buildings in the country has great potential to drive away investors, former President and Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has warned.
Director of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) Dr Clive Thomas said the agency, which is currently without legal framework, is in the process of mapping all the high-rise buildings with the aim of investigating their owners for tax evasion and money laundering.
According to media reports, Dr Thomas wants to ensure that the money used to construct the buildings was clean, that the building is not a shell company, that the owners are paying their taxes, that the building is not being used as a conduit for corrupt activities, and that even the land was lawfully obtained.
Dr Thomas contended that there is an underground economy in Guyana and Government is hell-bent on identifying the individuals involved.
He said once SARU, which will be renamed the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), gets it legal framework, it will spare no time in going after these individuals.
But the Leader of the Opposition warned that such actions will destroy the country’s economy as it will act as a repellent to investors.
“These loose mouthed people are damaging our economy,” he said, referring to Dr Thomas. “The business community and ordinary people operate on government signals. If the entire government speaks as if it hates investment and investors, and if you put up a building, you’ll be subjected to a whole range of scrutiny by the Government, then investors are just going to withdraw, no one will want to invest,” Jagdeo explained.
He also contended that there is absolutely no logic in targeting high-rise buildings in trying to track down tax evaders and money launderers.
“What’s the logic? Let’s assume you have one five-story building and another person have 50 one-story building… he’s going to map the one five-story building and you’re subjected to investigation and another person has 50 properties around the city, but you won’t be going after that person. What’s the logic?” he highlighted.
The former President cautioned that businessmen and even the ordinary citizenry act on government signals, and if government gives the impression that it is against investment, then investors and the ordinary man will respond in accordance – by withholding their money.
“Sometimes you can get everything right. but if the signals are wrong about your intent then people act on signals; investors do so, as well as ordinary citizens and so we. I don’t have much hope that they would listen because of the arrogance,” Jagdeo lamented.
Reports indicate that SARU already did an inventory of over 100 buildings in Guyana. (Guyana Times)