Penalizing parents for the transgressions of some Private Schools defies logic- Jagdeo

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…says VAT on private education can easily be removed

By Ramona Luthi

Former President Dr Bharat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday highlighted that by taxing private education, parents are being punished for the “transgressions” that private schools may be guilty of, noting that this “defies logic.”

“If the schools- the private schools- are offending the tax laws, if they’re not paying their fair share of taxes on the basis of profits they make, then by all means, the GRA should go after them but you cannot put in place a Value Added Tax [VAT] on the parents as a compensatory measure for the transgressions of private schools. It defies logic so it’s wrong,” he posited.

During a press briefing with media operatives, the Former President maintained that the revocation of VAT on private education is possible without the country (or government) facing any downfalls.

“They could easily remove this without affecting the revenue framework of the country so this is something that is vital,” he said.

Jagdeo reminisced on the promise of the coalition government that Guyanese would be entitled to free education, while highlighting the “full-fledged retreat” on that very promise.

“These are the same people who wanted to have free education, [that] criticised our [PPP] policy on education…First thing they did in office was to go after the students who had outstanding fees at UG, claiming that they will stop them from travelling, taking tough measures against them. Next is, they are increasing fees at the University of Guyana then the VAT on private education and materials purchased for education…” he recalled.

Moreover, the Opposition Leader questioned the imposition of VAT on the materials utilized in the education sector, noting that it “affects children who go to private and as well as public schools. So that is their policy on free education.”

Jagdeo further asserted his belief that the Government holds itself in higher regard over the citizens of Guyana.

“They’re collecting about $360M from parents this year, they’ll take that from them in the tax on private education. $360M is a large sum of money for parents but the salary increases that ministers took alone and their benefits will be more than $360M a year, and so they’re saying that they [Government] have greater priority to the access or greater priority in terms of needs to state funds than the twenty something thousand students in Guyana who are [receiving] private education…27 of them [Ministers] have greater priority to the ‘good life’ and they’re doing this at the expense of these private [school] kids” he said.

Jagdeo lambasted the incumbent Administration for being unable to prioritise and make big decisions, especially transparent ones, with regards to trajectory and growth of economy and its people.

“They have to go after parents and children for $360m, how can they make a decision [with regards to the Demerara Distillers Limited Scandal] of that nature that could cause us $28B? They didn’t deal with those sorts of things. They didn’t deal with the huge sums we spend on travel and why we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on fixing up State House or building a huge- the wall of china now- in Office of the President compound. How much does that cost? We won’t know because they haven’t gone to tender for it. The money they’ve wasted-if you add the part that was  stolen on the Durban Park alone, that would be more than four years of what the parents have to pay on private education,” Jagdeo said while questioning why no Commission of Inquiry was launched into these issues.

VAT on private education was introduced in the Budget 2017 Presentations and implemented on February 1, 2017.

However, from the inception, it has been rejected by majority of Guyanese citizens.

Nevertheless, Government had maintained that the measure would remain intact, even after  many outcries by some private institutions, parents, students and several significant members of the private sector for the measure to be reversed.

Government’s tone on the matter changed to a more  conciliatory outlook last week after Guyanese had opted to stage several protests in front of the Ministry of Education, calling for the revocation of VAT on private education.

A meeting was arranged for Ministers, including Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo to have a discussion with parents at the National Cultural Centre last Friday, so that their concerns could be addressed.

The discussion however, proved to be unfruitful as the consultation was diverted from the issue at hand and did not provide adequate answers to the stakeholders present.

The three hour long consultation with members of the Government and scores of affected citizens ended abruptly after Nagamootoo announced that while the concerns regarding the topic would be reviewed it was very unlikely that the taxation measure on education would be repealed this year.

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