By Richardson Dhalai
January 11, 2016 – newsday.co.tt
THE succesfully lobbied to “Axe the Tax” now Congress of the People political leader Prakash Ramadar is warning that the proposed Property Tax of the current People’s National Movement administration can transform an inheritance to a “debt burden.” Ramadhar was speaking at the COP’s first post-national council press conference for 2016 at the party’s Operations Centre in Charlieville.
According to the COP leader the honeymoon period for the Keith Rowley administration was over and warned that the coming year could be a challenging one for citizens.
“This year ahead of us, from all indications appear to be a very challenging one, not just to the relation in the upsurge of crime that we have seen recently but certainly the uncertainty of our economic future and the measures that have been indicated by our government to deal with some of the financial and economic shortfalls,” Ramadhar said.
“This property tax has the effect that you may have a property burden with such taxation that instead of leaving an inheritance for your children, you leave a debt,” he said.
“The honeymoon is now over and this government must take responsibility because we, all of us, paid the price on election day for all the things that you said were wrong about the past government,” he said.
Ramadhar added that if there was corruption during the People’s Partnership’s administration, then the State’s institutions had a duty to investigate and prosecute those who may have been involved.
“The blame game of putting things on the last administration has to stop. It has to come to an end. You are in government today.
You have the cooperation of the Congress of the People to do the things that will lift this nation, but we are committed equally to say when things are wrong as we have in the past and to help find solutions as we go forward,” he added.
At yesterday’s council meeting, the party’s members discussed the return of the Property Tax and the uncertainty surrounding its implementation.
The COP’s general secretary, Clyde Weatherhead, pointed out several discrepancies. He noted that while government was advising citizens to pay the old Land and Building taxes while the Property Tax regime was being finalised, this could be troublesome since the old form of taxes had been abolished in 2009.
“The only existing property tax or tax on property in Trinidad and Tobago is the property tax under the Property Tax Act 2009,” Weatherhead said, adding, “The Land and Buildings tax was abolished by the repeal of the Land and Building tax Act.” “Land and Building taxes no longer exist,” he said.
“The Property tax was never collected in 2009. When the law was passed, there were issues about the valuation and as there has never been an agreement within the circles of government on the real basis of the valuation to be done,” he said.
“The property tax was never actually implemented, in 2011. It was suspended because the intention was to have it reviewed,” he added.
He said the COP would be going out into the communities to solicit views from citizens on the Property Tax and make the necessary proposals for amendments to the legislation.
“We want to see how we can ensure that people’s right to their property is protected and an awesome burden is not placed on people on top of the fact that we facing increases in prices due to reduction in gasoline subsidy, and now intention of increasing water rates, electricity rates and others. And with the removal of VAT (Value Added Tax), we may be facing increases in the prices in food as well,’ Weatherhead said.
Meanwhile, Ramadhar said there had not been any further negotiations between the member political parties which had comprised the People’s Partnership Administration since the 2015 General Election and noted that the COP was an independent party which was seeking to grow its membership.
“That arrangement for the People’s Partnership for the 2010 to 2015, there have been no further negotiations after the elections.
We continue to work together with all who are interested in the development of the nation but the COP stands as an independent party as it always had,’ Ramadhar said.
However Ramadhar noted that the COP was intent on national development and had already spoken to the Attorney General and Minister of National Security on plans to propel the nation forward.