TIME FOR UNCLE DONALD TO MOVE MORE QUICKLY
One of the campaign promises of the PPPC was a review of the VAT. And one of the first significant policy acts of the Donald Ramotar administration was to appoint a three-man committee to examine this issue.
Unfortunately, no review has been completed because one of the members of the three man team took ill. These things happen; they are part of the unpredictability of life and therefore we have to accept the reality that the work of the committee was stymied because of the illness of one of the appointees.
In the circumstances, the campaign promise remains unfulfilled. The promise was not for a reduction but for a review. It therefore needs to be asked, ‘a review towards what end?’
Since the basic premise behind the decision to review the VAT was the perception that VAT was fueling the high cost of living, then ways of ensuring that VAT brings further relief to the poor man should be the primary term of reference for the committee entrusted with reviewing this tax system.
It would be inexcusable if the private sector were to end up as the winners of any review of the VAT. It simply is not going to sit well with the general public.
Any overall reduction in the VAT rate will benefit the rich far more than the poor and the working class needs a guarantee that any review will be aimed at helping them and not the rich.
It is therefore hoped that in writing the terms of reference of the review committee, priority attention will be given towards cost of living relief for the poor. It is also hoped that a review will be undertaken of the efficiency of the collection of this tax to see whether the Guyana Revenue Authority has been effective in enforcing the relevant laws. In addition, it needs to be determined whether there are any loopholes that the rich businessmen can exploit.
It is against this background that there is a need to appoint someone with an academic and working class background to replace the member of the review team that has fallen ill. A name that immediately springs to mind is Dr. Clive Thomas. He should be asked to replace the gentleman who has fallen ill.
He is a capable choice. He has the academic qualifications for the job and he has written a fair bit on the tax system. His background as an economist will also bring a new perspective to the review team which formerly comprised accountants and a business executive. A person of Dr. Thomas’s background will also ensure that working class interests are not shut out from consideration.
If on the other hand Dr. Thomas refuses, then the government may consider another eminent Caribbean economist, Dr. Compton Bourne to fill the void. If he too refuses, then it should ask Mr. Ramon Gaskin.
The committee to review the VAT needs to be fully constituted and begin its work. The government is going to come under serious criticism if after one year after the PPPC took office this review of the VAT has not been completed. There is no need for this issue to become another controversy.
Already there is something brewing over the issue of an investigation into alleged irregularities involving the procurement of a boat for the Guyana Police Force.
President Donald Ramotar needs to take this matter in hand and constitute a small probe team to investigate the circumstances of why this matter has allegedly been hushed up and who was behind any such action.
There is equally no need for this matter to also become another controversy. The President should allow the chips to fall wherever they have to fall.
There is need for this issue to join the many others over which the PPP’s handling should be brought under the microscope. If it was mishandled in the past, then the past needs to be put behind and steps should be taken to ensure that the right thing is done.
This can only happen through the establishment of a credible probe team. Perhaps Mr. Ramon Gaskin can be asked to head such a probe so as to ensure there is no further controversy over this matter.
The President has warmed the seat of Executive power for near to eight months during which time little has been accomplished. It is time for decisive action.
It is time for the President to step out and take some risks. The country is looking for strong, firm and decisive action from the President. It is about time he quickens his steps and get things moving.