Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 10th 2015 Contents A5
Saturday, October 10, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The PNM s 2016 budget of decep-
tive figures will place financial pain
on the poor, middle class, workers,
small and medium businesses and
everyone to whom costs are being
passed on, Opposition Leader
Kamla Persad-Bissessar warned
Delivering the first budget reply
in her new position as Opposition
Leader, Persad-Bissessar added in
Parliament yesterday, "This budget
appears designed to punish the poor
and a vast majority of citizens ... to
create financial hardship among
those least able to manage it. The
(Finance) Minister speaks of sharing
the burden, even unions joined the
PNM s chorus of the need to share
the burden. In reality, it s only the
lower and middle income who are
sharing this burden. The deception
is in the numbers. The devil is in
"The PNM has given T&T half a
budget, costing $63 billion with a
deficit of $21 billion dollars and, in
the same breath talking fiscal dis-
cipline, then they tell us the real
budget will come next March...when
the IMF arrives? So, citizens: hold
your breath as you wait to exhale
when the real budget comes.
"These 2015 numbers are debat-
able. We ll only know the real num-
bers some months from now, (but)
the facts and figures will drown out
the deception," she said.
Persad-Bissessar faced continuous
haranguing from PNM members at
the start of her speech. House
Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George
had to call for order numerous times
during Persad-Bissessar s two-hour
address. Annisette-George at one
point had to tell Finance Minister
Colm Imbert she was hearing him.
Saying there were many deceptive
elements in the budget, Persad-
Bissessar said Imbert s presentation
lacked context in his accusation of
PP economic "mismanagement."
She began her address detailing
and defending the PP s economic
handling, denying wastage and
explaining government s overdraft
with the Central Bank.
On budget implications, Persad-
Bissessar said the personal allowance
increase worked out to allowing indi-
viduals $250 more monthly, "or the
princely sum of $8 per day, these
days that can t even buy two dou-
Additionally, the VAT measures
and fuel costs negated any benefit
citizens would have received from
this, she added.
Persad-Bissessar questioned who
would benefit from a reduction of
VAT from 15 to 12.5 per cent.
She said, "Already the items
described as essentials: foodstuff,
medication, etc, are VAT free. So it s
more likely persons involved in the
purchase of luxuries will benefit.
"The situation is more deception:
what the minister is really offering
T&T is an increase in the money
every person spends on VAT, because
the vulnerable, poor, the single-par-
ent households, the elderly, those
most in need are now going to be
penalised by having to pay VAT on
a secret wide range of goods which
previously had no VAT."
She said the PP removed VAT on
all food items, but retained it on lux-
uries and alcohol.
"The PNM Government is seeking
to undo that not only by raising the
prices of food and other items on
their secret list by 12.5 per cent. But
prices will escalate by substantially
more than 12.5 per cent as a direct
consequence of this."
Persad-Bissessar added, "The
minister glossed over that the average
citizen will have to pay more for
food and basics.
"He already knows what items
will be VATable because he was able
to calculate what the tax returns.
Which foods is he taxing? Coffee?
Sardines? Ghee? Curry? Corned
beef? Crix? Ketchup? Cooking oil?"
She noted VAT-free items included
pharmaceuticals, steelband equip-
ment, agricultural and energy sector
inputs, books, rental properties, com-
munication and sports inputs.
"The multiplier effect of this
measure on these is a retrograde
step, with inflationary repercussions,"
Imbert s indication that widening of
the VAT base would yield $4 billion
from citizens since budget revenue
documents show 2016 VAT collec-
tion of $12 billion. "He s misled us
with the $4 billion figure and needs
to explain how you get double rev-
enue if you reduce VAT."
The effect of increasing the
threshold for VAT to $500,000 also
means an increase in the cost of
doing business, she noted.
"Particularly for small businesses
and new start-ups, as they would
be unable to claim their input VAT
through the system. This doesn t
affect big businesses. But when this
is tied to the Business and Green
Fund Levy increases in the budget,
it s a triple whammy against small
and micro-enterprise businesses.
"Every parlour will feel this, every
small retail outlet, everyone seeking
to open new business...unless you re
a big businessman in which case
you d cross the limit and be able to
Kamla: A budget of deception
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks to Finance Minister Colm Imbert during yesterday's start of the budget
debate at Tower D International Waterfront, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
Persad-Bissessar said the 200 per
cent Business Levy increase would
increase the tax liability of those
businesses already making a
"In the current economic climate
with rising cost of doing business,
falling revenues and profits, this
penalises small-medium businesses
and may contribute to them going
out of business---another penalty for
Persad-Bissessar said the PNM, in
raising this tax, appeared to recognise
the adverse effect the budget would
have on such businesses.
"How else does one explain that
with an average of $219.3 million in
revenue from the Business Levy
between 2010 to 2015, he raises the
tax by 200 per cent but the actual
increase in revenue projected isn't a
commensurate 200 per cent but 175
per cent of that? Is it that more
small/medium businesses will simply
She echoed similar concerns
regarding the Green Fund Levy.
"And it's obvious these costs will be
passed to the consumer via higher
Persad-Bissessar said despite the
PNM's "crown jewel," that is, the "$10
billion National Security allocation,
analysis showed the funding hike
was for expense for the combination
of Justice and other portfolios with
National Security and has nothing to
do with crime-fighting initiatives.
...Hoax or deception. 'Plenty' money
for National Security, but little to
Persad-Bissessar queried the fact
that the property tax wasn't listed
under "land and building tax" or the
property tax the PNM had passed,
but under "a strange new heading---
Industrial Land Tax."
She said Imbert had delivered a
contradictory budget statement
seeking to continue the adversarial
election campaign "not to unite our
people for the necessary adjustment
or the change in thinking...he appears
to be setting the stage for when his
plans fail by placing his responsibility
on the private sector's shoulder when
he says economic recovery will
depend critically on that sector's
"(But) there's little in the budget to
generate business confidence,
motivate significant investment and
nothing to ease the labour shortage
and improve productivity."
Slamming Imbert's "Let's Do This
Together" call, she added, "It's a
betrayal to ask everyone to do this
together and then alienate so many
by branding them guilty of
malfeasance and betrayal when an
assurance is given there will be no job
loss, yet daily we read about more
and more job losses.
"Budget statements show the new
Government more concerned with
scoring political points than dealing
with T&T's fundamental problems."
Persad-Bissessar warned the
global economy remained caught in
"It's important that actions that
could result in further economic
contraction are avoided and efforts
are made to mitigate the effect of
the restructuring that must take
place, and its effects on the poor in
our country. Unfortunately the
budget's positions give little hope
that the current Government
understands the problem or have
policy prescriptions they can offer."
She concluded, "The last time I
made a budget contribution, a PNM
MP dismissed it as 'arrant nonsense
and foolishness' and while I wouldn't
say his budget speech was that,
there are many who've said his
speech was exactly that."
LEVY WILL BRING STRIFE
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