Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 13th 2016 Contents A5
Wednesday, January 13, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Alcohol valued at more than
$400,000 have been discovered
at the official residence of the
Prime Minister, St Ann s.
This was revealed by Prime
Minister Dr Keith Rowley during
his contribution to the debate on
the Finance Bill 2016, which was
approved in the House of Repre-
sentatives yesterday morning.
The debate on measures to
remove items from the zero-rated
list, reduce the 15 per cent rate of
VAT to 12.5 per cent, increase the
Business Levy and Green Fund
and increase personal allowance
from $60,000 to $72,000 were
presented for debate by Finance
Minister Colm Imbert shortly after
2 pm on Monday and the measure
was approved by legislators at
about 12.10 am yesterday.
Rowley moved into the official
residence last month. He told leg-
islators there were a series of func-
tions, including one for children.
He said there was an alcohol bar
at each of those functions except
the one for children.
He quickly added: "You ll be
surprised to know that all the alco-
hol for those functions... we didn t
buy a bottle. We used from the
This prompted Government
MPs to shout "wooooh".
Rowley said: "When Christmas
was over, we had a valuation done
on what was left... $400,000
worth of liquor was on the com-
pound there and that is what they
left when they went."
He repeated: "That is what they
left and that should tell you what
the priorities were for those who
were there before the PNM. That
should tell you where there pri-
He said: "Right now in that
compound up there is $400,000
in alcohol and the interesting thing
about it is that in the records we
can t find how it was sourced.
"There is no paper trail towards
its sourcing. So it leaves us to won-
der how all that alcohol got into
that compound but if I understand
how they ran the country it might
have even been paid for by XYZ
or Mr ABC."
Contacted for comment, Oppo-
sition Leader and former prime
minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
said she was not aware of Rowley s
"I didn t hear those comments
from the Prime Minister but there
is a staff that ran the Diplomatic
Centre (located on the compound
of the official residence) and they
would be in a better position to
indicate what was there or what
was not," she said.
Persad-Bissessar said when she
"took up residence there, at that
time, there was also a lot of alcohol
in the Diplomatic Centre as well
as other items."
Persad-Bissessar lived there
after the Patrick Manning gov-
ernment was defeated in the May
2010 general election.
Persad-Bissessar said she knew
that "when people checked, people
running the place would have left
an inventory of what was there.
At no time did I order any such
items. You would find no order
coming from me with respect to
those matters (alcohol). They were
handled by staff at the place."
In response to another question
from the T&T Guardian, Persad-
Bissessar said the new PNM Gov-
ernment "finds everything they
can find to play the blame game
to paint the past government in
the worst light possible."
She said it must be part of the
politics of life.
Rowley during debate on Finance Bill:
$400,000 in alcohol
at PM's residence
Bakers want clarification
from Finance Minister Colm
Imbert on how VAT will be
applied to flour.
Among those seeking more
details on the new rate, which
comes into effect on February
1, is Rene de Gannes, general
manager, commercial at Kiss
Baking Company Limited,
who said the company did
not have enough details about
"Further clarification is
required from the Ministry
of Finance/Ministry of Trade
and the VAT regulatory
authorities before a full
assessment is embarked upon
by the Kiss Baking Company,"
De Gannes said in response
to a request for comment
from the T&T Guardian.
"Kiss Baking Company is
loath to make pronounce-
ments prior to a full com-
prehension of all influential
Other bakers, who declined
to go on record, said they also
wanted clarification about
the VAT on bread since there
were different types of breads
on the market.
Imbert, in announcing the
new VAT regime during
debate in Parliament on
Monday, said flour, except
all-purpose and wheat flour,
will be subject to VAT as well
as bread, with the exception
of white and whole wheat
Also commenting on the
new VAT regime was pres-
ident of the San juan Business
Association, Vivek Charran,
who expressed concern that
middle income earners would
feel the blow of having to pay
more for basic food items.
"We are concerned
because the 12.5 per cent is
not going to be in cents. It s
going to be an increase in
dollars per item. What that
means is that we are looking
for a basket of food items
that is going to cost more
than it used to cost before.
People will have to make
smart choices to deal with
the increase in prices," he
Charran said he was also
concerned about VAT being
added on computers.
"Do you mean computers
in general? Do you mean
computer accessories? What
is it exactly? Why would we
want to increase the cost of
computers if we want every-
one to become computer lit-
erate?" he asked.
Property owners can breathe a sigh of relief as
they would not have to worry about paying exor-
This assurance was given by the Minister of Finance
However, despite the minister s assurance several
property owners across the country expressed concerns
over the re-introduction of the taxes while others
welcome it openly, saying they see it as necessary
and one of the major means to restore T&T s econ-
The call for education forums on the topic was
also made by some citizens, who described themselves
as the layman and just wanted the privilege to attend
a forum where they could have the return of the
Property Tax explained to them in a way they could
A resident from the Diego Martin West constituency,
who only identified herself as Rachael, said she felt
like people were being hit with tax after tax after tax.
"I think they should hold off on either one. They
can t hit us with bringing back items on the VAT list
and now still on top of that want to bring back prop-
"Right now it have no middle class. It s either you
rich or you poor and with all these taxes monsters
are breeding. Ease up on the taxes," the resident said.
Point Fortin resident Victor Sandy, 77, said: "I never
went to school and I cannot read and write so I am
left confused with all the talk about property tax.
"I need to know how it is going to affect me, good
and bad. I need for someone to explain it to me in
terms of how much of my pension money I have to
take to pay the tax. I don t want to hear one set of
Glencoe resident Bobby Adams, 58, said he didn t
see the return of the tax as bad.
He added: "There should be no beat up with the
Property Tax because a small man like me will just
have to pay a few hundred dollars in tax."
Interviewed yesterday, Imbert said the Government
would amend the Act favourably.
"We will amend the Act to ensure that payments
of Property Tax, or land and building tax, in 2016,
whatever you wish to call it, will be due and payable
at the same amounts that these taxes were paid in
2009, on a property by property basis.
"In 2017 the percentages and method at which
and by which the tax was applied will be adjusted
to ensure that the tax is fair and reasonable," he
Correcting what political leader of the Congress
of the People (COP) Prakash Ramadhar said over the
weekend, Imbert explained that by using the existing
law, the tax on a $1 million property would be about
$1,500 a year.
"Not $30,000 a year as incorrectly claimed by
Opposition spokesmen. We intend to look at that
$1,500 a year on a $1 million property to see if it rea-
sonable and will adjust to suit, if need be," he said.
Imbert pointed out a frequent mistake that people
were making, which he said was that the Property
Tax, as presently configured, was based on rental
values not capital values.
"So a $1 million apartment or house, for example,
would rent for about $4,500 per month, or $54,000
a year. The annual taxable value (ATV) is calculated
by deducting ten per cent for voids, resulting in a
taxable value of $48,600.
"The rate of three per cent for residential properties
is then applied to this, resulting in an annual Property
Tax of $1,458 and this is using the existing formula,
which we intend to revisit.
"So all of this alarmist rhetoric from the other side
is just wrong," he added.
fears on return
of Property Tax
Rowley, in his contribution in
Parliament, said if his administration
was to follow the pattern of the former
PP government the country would
He said the Opposition was aware of
the state of the economy. He said he
was leading the PNM for one five-year
term before the next election was
He said between "now and then I
have a responsibility to you, your
children and the country to ensure that
this country does not become another
IMF case. That is the commitment I
give to you, once we could avoid it."
Rowley said while the Opposition
MPs have criticised the measures
contained in the bill, the PNM was
committed to take the difficult
decisions in the best interest of the
The measures will cause certain
food prices to increase.
He said: "If you think that is difficult
it will be ten times more difficult if the
IMF starts to call the shots in T&T. You
are much better off calling your own
He said the priority of his
Government "under the current
circumstances is to keep T&T out of
the jaws of the IMF while making the
best of a bad situation."
He criticised Opposition MP Prakash
Ramadhar for trying to instill fear in
the population about plans to resume
collection of the Property Tax.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, in his
wind-up of the debate, dismissed a
claim by Ramadhar that the Property
Tax of a house valued at $1 million
would be $30,000 a year.
Imbert said the rate for such a
building that was being rented would
be just about $1,500 a year.
The House was adjourned to
January 20 at 1.30 pm.
Wesley Gomes cashes out at Food Basket Supermarket, Chaguanas, yesterday. Government
announced the 12.5 per cent VAT would be applied to several basic food items from February 1.
PHOTO: MARCUS GONZALES
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