By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The National Assembly without the presence of a vibrant Opposition on Thursday, July 30 passed another Bill – the Customs Amendment Bill 2015 – that seeks to do away with “discriminatory” tax that is imposed on containers importing disposable plastic bottles.
This is the third time that the Bill is before the House, having first appeared in the 10th Parliament but failed to garner the support of the then majority Opposition.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan, under whose name the Bill was presented, stated that more than $1B in revenue was derived from the Environmental Tax each year and the removal of this significant revenue earner will have some effect on Guyana’s treasury.
“There was a clear and urgent need to protect the environment using all of the measures employable by the government,” said Jordan who noted that one such mechanism was the environmental tax.
However, it should be noted that this tax must be removed so that Guyana can be in full compliance with the Treaty of Chaguaramas which was effectively breached with the imposition of the tax.
Also, the Guyana Government has already been taken to the Caribbean Court of Justice by Rudisa Beverages and ordered to pay damages of US$6.2 million, as was repeated by the Finance Minister.
“I believe that what is needed is broader more appropriate mechanism such as an incentive based tax mechanism to internalize the cost borne by the society at large,” Jordan said during the debate.
Also speaking on the issue was Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, who stated that when the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration sought the imposition of the tax, it was not unaware of the Treaty regulations.
“Both in the newspapers and in the press representatives of the former PPP government have been at pains to lay the blame for the burden of the fines on the (former) Opposition and I want to make it very very clear that we accept no responsibility for what was an irresponsible tax in the first place,” said Vice President Greenidge.
He said when the Bill was first presented it was made clear that it infringed the Treaty of Chaguramas.
“When the Minister of Finance brought the Bill to this House, we on the other side of this House agreed with him that the Bill was needed to remedy what was an illegality,” said Greenidge.