Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 22nd 2016 Contents A5
Friday, January 22, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The tiny village of Parlatuvier, Tobago, reacted in
shock yesterday after two villagers --- a husband and
wife --- were killed after their pickup van plunged off a
precipice on the winding North Side Road, near Cas-
The couple was identified as Maurice "Brown Boy"
Lewis, 65, and his wife, Verna, of Rock Top, Parlatuvi-
er.According to reports the accident occurred around noon
when Maurice lost control of his Toyota Hilux pickup van.
Eyewitnesses said the vehicle struck a lamp post, ran off
the road and plunged down a precipice and landed in a
Police say Maurice was pinned behind the steering
wheel and rescuers had to use hydraulic cutting tools to
free his body. He died on the scene. His wife, Verna, who
was in the front passenger seat of the vehicle was taken
to hospital by an ambulance. However, she succumbed to
her injuries while undergoing emergency surgery at hos-
Maurice was a retiree from the Water and Sewerage
Authority (WASA while Verna was employed as a checker
with the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities.
Acting Sergeant Baird of the Scarborough Traffic Branch
is spearheading investigations.
In a statement issued hours after the double fatality,
the Police Service noted the sharp increase in the road
death toll which now stands at 13, ten more than last
year s comparable figure.
The Police Service said many of the fatal accidents could
have been prevented and urged motorists to be responsible
on the roads.
"With Carnival less than three weeks away, we appeal
to drivers to manage their time when heading to events
to reduce the chance of speeding.
"Traffic injury research has shown a causative relationship
between driving speeds and occupant injuries, so that in
a vehicular crash with an impact speed of 80 km/h, the
likelihood of death of the vehicle s occupants is 20 times
what it would have been at an impact speed of 30 km/h,"
the statement added.
It advised fatigued drivers to stop at a safe, secure
location to rest, such as a mall car park or close to a police
or fire station and rest.
It cited research by the US National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) which stated that a fatigued
or sleepy driver was even more dangerous than a drunk
Evidence suggests that a 20-minute nap is the most
effective counter-measure against fatigue related collisions,
the statement said.
Finance Minister Colm
Imbert says public servants will
receive back pay long before
the end of fiscal 2016.
He said so during yesterday s
post-Cabinet media briefing
while responding to questions
"That will be done long before
September 2016. I don t want
to give a precise date at this time
but I will say in a month or two,
I will be able to give a precise
date as to when we will be set-
tling the arrears," he said.
He added that he was meeting
with the banking sector to deter-
mine how much money was
"We are out there in the
banking sector right now deter-
mining how much money is
available, what it will cost but
we will be borrowing to pay the
arrears because we simply don t
have the cash."
Imbert also said the Govern-
ment still needed more money
to pay billions of dollars to con-
"Every day, we are discovering
more and more contracts and
more debts that are piling up
and more and more payments
that are due and it will require
a debt management strategy on
the part of the Ministry of
"It s running into the billions
I can tell you. Every day we hear
about some other contract that
was entered into on the eve of
the general election and con-
tractual obligations entered into
the hundreds of millions. It s
something we have received
from the past administration.
They didn t pay their bills," he
He said the Government was
seeking to pay these debts by
Even as Finance Minister Colm Imbert tried to con-
vince citizens that the increased prices in food due to
the changes in the Value Added Tax (VAT) schedule
would be counter-balanced by increases in the pension
cap and tax exemptions for low income earners, he
announced that there may soon be a further reduction
in the list of non-vatable items.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press conference yesterday
at the Office of the Prime Minister, Imbert said he may
reduce the items exempt from VAT further and lower
the rate of the tax.
Imbert said exemptions created avenues for cheating.
Government as part of its manifesto promises reduced
VAT from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent but added processed
food to the list of taxable items.
"The fewer exemptions you have, the fewer avenues
you have for cheating. That s what weakens the VAT
system," he said.
Using a power-point presentation to illustrate his
point, Imbert said the average increase in the grocery
bill of citizens caused by changes to the VAT schedule
would be absorbed by Government s other changes which
gave almost 330,000 people more disposable income.
He said there was some confusion and misunder-
standing with respect to the fiscal measures that the
Government had introduced since it came into office.
He noted that as of December 1, Government had
increased the cap on people who received both the
National Insurance pension and the senior citizens
pension to $5,000, giving approximately 27,000 senior
citizens an additional $500 of disposable income.
"The next thing is we have increased the personal
income tax allowance from $60,000 a year to $72,000
a year so people who make less than $6,000 per month
do not have to file income tax returns."
Imbert said that gave approximately 59,000 people
making between $5,000 and $6,000 a month, an addi-
tional $210 of disposable income a month.
"When you take the total of persons in the under
$6,000 bracket you get 302,000 people exempted from
paying tax on their income.
He said the net increase in personal allowance and
pensions were about four or ten times more than the
additional charges incurred due to some goods being
removed from the zero-rated list.
"The net effect of the changes we have made is positive.
People will be better off under these measures than they
were before the new People s National Movement (PNM)
Government came into power," he noted.
Imbert said according to a Central Statistical Office
(CSO) survey conducted last November, one-third of
the country would be spending about $50 more at the
grocery due to VAT changes.
He said the CSO surveyed 34 per cent of the population
which spent about $700 a month on groceries.
He added goods purchased in the markets were exempt
Asked whether the figure of $700 a month was realistic,
Imbert said the figure was arrived at through the survey
and scientific calculations.
Imbert also said both the Consumer Affairs Division
and the Ministry of Finance would publish the prices
of goods affected by the changes to the VAT schedule
in an attempt to embarrass businesses who attempt to
raise prices indiscriminately.
He said there was a basic misconception that the VAT
system should be an instrument of social policy.
"It is not. It is simply a tax collection measure. We
are trying to make VAT as efficient as possible," he added.
He said a compelling and strong argument could be
made to exempt VAT from any product but that was
not the purpose of the VAT system.
"The VAT system is simply there to collect revenue
and it has to be strong and robust because it has to
counter balance the general lowering of income tax rates
and the increases in personal allowance over the years,"
He said the PNM s policy was to take the money from
taxation and use it to support social programmes.
More goods for
Public servants back pay come September---Colm
Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie announced yesterday the
Government would contribute $1.1 million to schools Carnival
competitions, including junior soca monarch and schools' Panorama.
He said the contribution was a decrease from $1.3 million last
He also announced that the Government would be upgrading the
Moruga fishing port. He said the first phase will begin with the
"It includes an upgrade of the facilities and utilities for the
Moruga area, constructing a new fishing port and facility,
constructing parking facilities within walking distance of all the
town services and amenities.
The project would also include creating a pedestrian-oriented
environment around the commercial heart of the town and building
a waterfront at the end of Moruga Road.
...Tobago couple killed in crash
The Police Service noted that on Saturday 18 drivers were arrested and
charged for drunk driving offences by the Traffic and Highway Patrol Branch
DUI Task Force. Sixteen of those drivers pleaded guilty and are to re-appear
before Magistrate Ali in the Port-of-Spain Sixth Court for sentencing. Two of
them pleaded not guilty and have their cases fixed for trial.
The pickup van in which the elderly couple --- Maurice and Verna Lewis ---
were killed along the North Side Road, Castara, yesterday.
PHOTO: CASANDRA THOMPSON-FORBES
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