By Stephen Kangal
September 23, 2009
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog
The Caroni Assembly of Villagers during their meeting held on Tuesday evening at the Vishnu Boys College in Caroni condemned the proposed high level of property tax as being unprecedented, unduly harsh and oppressive in the taxation annals of T&T. It was held as being “punitive, disruptive, draconian, illegal and onerous in its implications” according to the text of the Resolution that was adopted unanimously at the end of the Public Forum, a copy of which is attached.
All speakers called for the introduction of the property tax to be vigorously opposed, resisted and withdrawn on grounds that it was socio-environmentally insensitive, constituted a crude invasion of the sanctuary and sanctity of the home, violated the tenets of both natural justice and equity and could be declared illegal by judicial review. The perpetrators of the tax that is being foisted on the unsuspecting and barricaded population were regarded as glorified bandits wearing balisier ties.
The villagers indicated that the Minister of Finance has not, hitherto clearly formulated the mechanics and communicated convincingly the procedures for uniform and consistent implementation. She was treating with the daunting complexity of the proposed tax regime in a flippant, simplistic and ad hoc manner that could pave the way for subjectivity and arbitrariness to contaminate the rent-assessment and tax-determination stages. For the residents equality in tax assessment across the board will produce inequity having regard to the wide disparities in the human living conditions between rural and urban communities.
They called for its conditional withdrawal – for the introduction of a more just and equitable regime based on inputs to be derived from bona fides consultations to be undertaken with all the stake-holders organizations and NGO’s. It was felt that to complete the transparent property-assessment process in two months and introduce the tax by January 1, 2010 will be both time-frame and logistically challenged, provocative and was a recipe for fostering and promoting chaos and mayhem to take place in the 20th Anniversary of the 1990 uprising.
They appealed to Independent Senators to withhold their balance of power support for the radically-reforming but regressive fiscal measure. They called for it to be referred for balanced, detailed and judicious consideration by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament before being re-introduced in a scaled down format. It was felt that the tax was intended to make up the $7bn budget deficit by foolishly removing scarce liquidity from the hands of consumers who represented the only effective means of beating the recession by their spending and consumer confidence.
In the pre-ambular part of the Resolution the villagers expressed the view that the domestic operating socio-economic environment and ecology militated against the introduction of this astronomically high tax reform fiscal package owing to “rising unemployment, decreasing incomes, escalating food prices, increasing utility rates, high rentals, runaway crimes etc”.
They were addressed by Mr. Clyde Weatherhead, Inshan Ishmael, Sunil Ramjitsingh, Prakash Ramadhar and Stephen Kangal, co-ordinator of the Assembly in the presence of a large media attendance.
They propose to submit the text of the Resolution adopted as a petition to the President of the Senate, Senator the Honourable Danny Montano as well as to Independent Senators.
Resolution adopted by the Caroni Assembly of Villagers
Calling for the Withdrawal of the Proposed Property Tax
Taking into account the global financial crisis that has plunged hydrocarbon- rich Trinidad and Tobago into a deep recession in the face of a position of previous denial and assumed detached insulation from recession that was dishonestly adopted by the current administration;
Bearing in mind the loss of savings suffered by pensioners and savers from the collapse of the HCU and three CLICO companies, closure of Caroni Ltd and the prevailing low rates of interest paid on savings to nationals and pensioners in particular;
Unsettled by rising unemployment, decreasing incomes, escalating food prices, increasing utility rates, high rentals, runaway crimes and decrease in the receipt of remittances by nationals from abroad as well as the 300,000 properties that were allowed to get away tax-free by statal negligence;
Facing up to the lack of transparency, accountability, huge cost over-runs and the wasteful spending of over $300bn over the last eight years by Central Government including erecting expensive lack of income- generating buildings;
Emphasising the desirability of leaving adequate liquidity in the hands of consumers to enable them to drive consumer spending and confidence to achieve an economic revival from current recessionary times as is done in other countries;
Admitting that the property tax is based on unexpected astronomical increases ranging from 1000% to 2000% calculated to realize revenues estimated to be in excess of $5bn by methods and procedures that clearly infringe the tenets of equity and the principles of natural justice that could constitute compelling legal grounds for seeking judicial review;
This Caroni Assembly of Villagers meeting at Vishnu Boys College on Tuesday 22 September 2009 has agreed as follows:
1. Calls upon Government to withdraw the introduction of the draconian Property Tax pending the holding of meaningful consultations with all the stakeholder communities to determine a nationally agreed and more just and equitable property tax regime;
2. Calls upon the Honourable President of the Senate Senator Danny Montano to kindly have this petition/resolution read out in the Senate as a Civic Society Petition during the proceedings of the debate on the Budget or immediately thereafter;
3. Appeals to Independent Senators to use their crucial controlling vote to prevent the adoption of the Property Tax proposal and to have the proposal expunged from the Budget and be referred for consideration by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.
4. Supports the call by NATUC and OWTU as well as by hundreds of civic society members in the print media including pensioners to have the tax withdrawn owing to its punitive, disruptive, draconian, illegal and onerous implications.
22 September 2009
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