The Private Sector Commission has proposed a number of economic relief measures which could be implemented by the caretaker coalition to cushion the impact of the coronavirus as the crisis deepens.
A correspondence was sent to Head of the National COVID-19 Task Force, former Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, highlighting key areas in which measures can be taken to relieve Guyanese, especially through tax waivers and suspension of financial household commitments.
In the list of noteworthy recommendations made to the caretaker Administration was the removal of mortgage interests and payments during this time, and to immediately raise the threshold to accommodate no taxation for employees earning $65,000 to $100,000 who were sent off the job.
Additionally, there were calls for a reduced spread at commercial banks, that is, the difference between the lending rate and the savings rate of interest.
With many persons asked to remain at home throughout the quarantine period, the PSC urged Government to consider the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on food items, detergents, mobile data services and household and medical cleansers.
Along with this, the document suggested a temporary removal of the requirement to pay income and corporation taxes upfront, an extension of deadlines for utility bills and hire purchase debts, reduced excise taxes on fuel, and emergency funding for small establishments or businesses at risk of closure.
For the medical sector, the PSC requested the removal of taxes on personal protection equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves; ventilators for hospitals, testing kits and PCR machines. This tax removal was also requested for fuel prices, so that the public transportation network can benefit from a corresponding reduction of fares.
The Private Sector body recommended that utility companies defer payments and/or reduce by 50 per cent; the suspension of income and corporation taxes until September, direct payment to citizens – unemployment payments or payroll subsidy, liquidity support for banks, loans and financing for businesses, administrative relief on statutory obligations, tax measures to lower material cost for sanitisation and lastly, the encouragement to private stakeholders for the importation of masks, test kits and ventilators.
While it has been some time since these ‘urgent’ recommendations were forwarded to the caretaker Prime Minister, little has been done from the list to improve the current situation.
In a bid to mitigate the financial fallout from the coronavirus, which is expected to hit some households hard, the PSC recently moved to set up a COVID-19 response fund.
It was set up to assist persons in financial hardships and also to provide critical supplies to the population.