Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 23rd 2016 Contents A6
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There will be a choice between food and
books for parents in this country, says Oppo-
sition MP Suruj Rambachan.
Rambachan said this while contributing to a
private motion on the provision of learning mate-
rials to students in Parliament yesterday.
"Don t underestimate what I am telling you.
The pressure to make ends meet becomes more
difficult with the addition of VAT on books,"
"Children are under pressure and you come
and put VAT on schoolbooks and all these other
He said the benefits from the changes to
the VAT schedule which raised the cap for pen-
sions and increased the exemption for personal
taxable income were not reaching the people
who needed it.
"Those who are rich will be able to meet the
costs of education and those who are not will
Rambachan questioned whether the Govern-
ment was perpetuating a caste system in edu-
cation where certain people were banned from
receiving a proper education.
Rambachan said the combination of govern-
ment s decision to add VAT to books and the
layoff of workers occurring in various sectors of
society would affect the poor.
"The loss of jobs is important to the issue of
provision of education for students."
He said some schools had also received less
funds per student which would affect students
"They will ask the parents, send your child
with toilet paper and soap in your bag.
"Retrenchment plus VAT on food and books
plus increased transport means PNM-induced
In responding to the debate, Attorney General
Faris Al-Rawi said there needed to be a reality
"What do we do as a nation? Let s have a
reality check for a moment. We stand in T&T
where the price of oil is US$28 per barrel. Gas
is skirting at around US$2. We are looking at a
couple billion shortfall in our budget."
He said the country needed revenue.
"Do we say to people that taxation is a bad
idea? Don t pay your taxes. Do we say we will
spare you from the VAT man and instead of
applying VAT to you at lowered rates, instead of
doing that would we just fire the workforce and
say we fire you because we have no VAT?" asked
A breakdown of homes as well
as an increase in criminal behav-
iour and violence is becoming
pervasive in schools and people
are unaware until "you re waiting
for your child to come home and
you hear they get dragged out of
a car and killed," says Opposition
MP Fazal Karim.
Karim alluded to Thursday s
murders of Laventille students
Denilson Smith and Mark Richards
when the MP spoke in yesterday s
parliamentary debate on an oppo-
This called on the Government
to take urgent steps to ensure stu-
dents are provided with text/work-
books and other learning materials
in fulfilment of commitments
given for the 2015-2016 academic
Karim said if authorities did not
do their work in classrooms, the
situation could manifest in the
form of "Thursday s unfortunate
incident...you can speak to the par-
ents and offer condolences, but
you never know how it feels until
it happens to you."
He said authorities needed to
ensure that students had the nec-
essary tools to learn and that lead-
ership and other skills were learned
and classroom management done.
Karim accused the Government
of trivialising education by recently
instituting 12.5 per cent VAT on
educational materials including
books and computer technology.
Quoting Sparrow s calypso on
education being the foundation,
Karim said T&T was once seen as
the Caribbean s knowledge capital
and work/textbooks allowed stu-
dents to excel.
"You must have the power of
the mind to move a country for-
He said one computer class
could reach millions and that the
People s Partnership (PP) was going
to institute an electronic book con-
cept. But he said placing VAT on
schoolbooks was an attack on
functional literacy and students
literary path and would severely
decrease education quality, espe-
cially for those unable to afford it.
"It will create educational
hunger and starvation, and demo-
tivate students. How will we com-
pete in scholarships?" he asked.
Karim said the situation would
create a class-stratified society
where those who "have" could buy
books and technology and access
better education than those who
didn t "have."
He said the Government had not
given a clear position on the PP s
laptop initiative and T&T couldn t
diversify and compete without
being up to date: "Paying lip serv-
ice to education won t get T&T
Acting Education Minister Ter-
rence Deyalsingh, saying the PNM
had done a poor job of telling T&T
what it had done for education,
detailed some of the PNM s
He questioned the data to con-
firm if the PP s laptop plan had
done what it was supposed to, or
to show if it had done anything
for T&T, and the curriculum for
Deyalsingh said the PP s e-book
plan was an election gimmick since
only a handful of local publishers
had the e-book version of text-
books and some had voiced con-
cern about data protection, copy-
right and physical distribution of
books. He said connectivity wasn t
addressed, there was no platform
to host the service and the one
provider the PP engaged had prob-
lems with the service.
Suruj says parents faced with...
books or food
Opposition MP tells legislators:
Violence becoming pervasive in schools
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, right, and Finance Minister Colm Imbert
during yesterday's sitting of Parliament at Tower D, International
Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
Pensioners are expected to
receive funds in their accounts
The Finance Ministry in a state-
ment, yesterday, said there had
been a delay in the processing of
government pension for the
month of January.
Pensioners who called our
newsroom said they had been
checking their accounts over the
last few days and were unable to
get an answer from their bank or
the Ministry of Finance about the
One pensioner, who said he was
a cancer survivor, said he needed
the funds to buy medication and
wondered if the Government had
funds to pay pensioners.
A release from the Ministry of
Finance, yesterday, said payments
would be credited to pensioners
accounts no later than January
26.The Treasury Division apolo-
gised for the inconvenience
For further clarification pen-
sioners can call the Pensions Man-
agement Branch at 623-2941 ext
1015 or 1018.
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