Every citizen in Guyana has to pay and must pay two forms of taxes. One is PAYE which is compulsory once you earn income whether as an employee or self-employed. Only persons exempted are those who fall below the threshold of PAYE.
The other is property tax. Prior to 2014, every citizen whose total assets were over $7 million had to declare property tax. You don’t need to go to high school (maybe even school at all) to know that if every citizen had to pay property tax on assets over $7M then the revenue people had to collect a colossal amount from the super-rich in Guyana.
Imagine families own vital city wharves in the capital city where import and export trade brought in hundreds of millions of dollars each month. Imagine men own thousands of acres in gold fields and whose operations brought in billions of dollars.
The state had to earn a few billions in property tax from just a few families much less if the net is cast nation-wide.
Yet for the past 25 years, property tax as a percentage of collected taxes was less than one percent. In 2014, the government, in order to ease the burden on property tax for lower middle class folks upped the ceiling to $44M.
This made sense because long-serving policemen, soldiers, public servants, etc had accumulated more than $7M. Why should such small persons be targeted to pay property tax?
Finance Minister Ashni Singh, and President Donald Ramotar resisted persistent efforts by the Private Sector Commission to abolish property tax. They had in mind the super-rich class so the ceiling moved from $7M to $44M.
Speaking at his party press conference, Nigel Hinds, of Change Guyana told the nation that in 2017 and 2018, the GRA netted $4 billion in property tax.
If Hinds is right then it is the inflexible opinion of this analyst that Godfrey Statia has not done his job as the country’s tax collector and the President of Guyana whose obligation is to see his administration collect what is owed to the people of Guyana has not done his job too.
It is the opinion of this columnist that if the figure of $4B cited by Hinds is correct, Statia should be relieved of his job and President Granger should not be re-elected.
Do not rely on the contents of this column to accept how pathetic Statia’s collection of property tax for 2017 and 2018 was; just take a calculator and work the figures. Guyana has a small population. There is no secret in a small society. From illiterate to semi-literate to the educated, Guyanese know who are the super-rich in Guyana. Their assets cannot be concealed. Many families collectively are worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Here is my contestation. From just three families, property tax of $4 billion can be secured. How then from the entire country, Statia has netted only $4B? It cannot be. It makes no sense.
There is one gentleman who owns more land in this country except for the state. If Barbados is 166 square miles then collectively this man’s land possessions all over Guyana are many times the size of Barbados.
The business operations are enormous. This gentleman bought a building from one of Guyana’s prominent churches for half a billion dollars and has left it idle now going on to ten years. I am arguing that property taxes alone from him will be in the billions of dollars.
Godfrey Statia and the President should face this nation and explain how among hundreds of superrich families, the GRA only collected $4B. I am saying with tsunamic insistence that given the spread of wealth among hundreds of rich families, the GRA had to know that in 2017, that $4B figure was horse dung. President Granger had to know in 2018 that the $4B received in 2017 was a case of the state being owed an enormous amount by people not paying property tax. If in 2018, he didn’t know what took place in 2017, he is unfit to be president.
How do you explain this graphic abandonment in the constitutional and legal duties by Statia and Granger? I will tread carefully here and resort to my academic training in order to avoid libel.
The term we use in political theory to explain why the state did not move against those who failed to pay their rightful share of taxes is called, “clientelism.” I suggest you research the term but I will leave it at that out of fear that Statia or Granger will sue me.
In the meantime, Statia continues to harass small business people like the vulcanising shops. I say to Statia and Granger, please resign.
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