In heavily criticising the previous administration’s taxation policy, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo told the National Assembly on Friday that the new Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Administration does not believe in burdening the population with taxes.
“We believe that people who earn money should keep more of it, [all of it] must not come to the government, so people who sit in government offices can spend up this money,” Jagdeo declared during the 2020 budget debate.
Jagdeo contended that the former APNU/AFC Administration had no proper economic policy; he posited that their approach was based on heavy taxation and consumption.
In contrast, he noted, the PPP/C government “doesn’t believe collecting more taxes is a sign of progress”.
The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) collected some $225.99 billion in tax revenue for the 2019 fiscal period. In 2014, the last budget the PPP/C administration before the APNU/AFC assumed office in 2015, tax collection was some $135 billion.
But Jagdeo questioned what benefit did the country and its people receive from the increased taxes. He asked: “Where did the money go from the taxes they were collecting?”
He surmised that the increased revenue was wantonly and excessively spent unnecessarily, on “cronies, friends and families” of the previous administration.
Jagdeo pointed to the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) where the heads, who were political appointees with no forensic training, were taking home millions. He noted too that millions have been allocated to the Agency over the years but it has not done any work to justify the large sums it has been receiving, i.e., it has not recovered a single asset.
Jagdeo also revealed that the public sector employment grew by some 10,000 more individuals under the APNU/AFC Administration. These individuals, he told the National Assembly, are mostly persons associated with the coalition.
“That is where the money was spent…they increased employment [for friends] and paid higher salaries…” he expressed.
Indeed, months after assuming office, among the first tasks of the David Granger-led administration was to significantly increase his salary and that of his ministers.
Only recently, new Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharamlall had revealed that over 50 persons were employed under the previous Communities Ministry, and they were collectively taking home hundreds of millions of dollars, but there is no record of their work.
But according to Jagdeo, these excesses are going to be cut back and the money returned to the people.
He highlighted that Budget 2020 has already begun to do just that, with the removal of a number of taxes including on private education and medical healthcare, and domestic travel, among many other areas. Majority of these taxes were imposed under the Granger Government.
Jagdeo also railed in on the former administration for having no welfare policy, condemning them once more for the disbanding of the Labour Ministry, the firing of thousands of sugar workers, the scrapping of the $10,000 ‘Because We Care’ cash grant for students, and the removal of water subsidies for pensioners.
These initiatives, Jagdeo explained, are not beneficial to the people and would have led to added burdens in the lives.