Rowley hits property tax

By Sean Douglas
December 20 2009 –

Dr. Keith RowleyDIEGO Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley believes that people from all walks of life are angry at the Government’s property tax which they blame on squandermania. Rowley was speaking on Friday in the Lower House on two bills to bring the new tax, the Property Tax Bill 2009 and the Valuation of Land (Amendment) Bill 2009.

He said, “In my constituency there is anger, anxiety and resentment, at both ends of the spectrum.”

Saying the property tax is obviously a revenue-raising measure, he said people are saying if the Government had better handled its largesse, there would have been no need for this tax.

“Stop taking your own advice that nobody is annoyed…,” he advised the Government. He said they have brought the tax at the worst possible time, alluding to tough economic times. He repeatedly said that people were not against the idea of paying taxes but were upset that this measure could have been averted if the Government had acted differently previously, in its expenditure.

Rowley lamented that the Government in this bill had not taken the opportunity to begin a paradigm shift in how local government is treated. He lamented that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) model – which holds local officials to a greater accountability to citizens – has not been adopted for local councils in Trinidad.

Saying the lifeblood of performance is money, Rowley said without such reform in Trinidad, the introduction of property tax would likely not bring improvements to local communities. Adding that the Government has not come clean over the property tax, he said the country would only have to wait until people’s bills are paid in September to find out if it is in fact a serious revenue earner.

“I suspect the three percent will be on values considerably higher than being made out to be. You’ll get good values for most properties,” he said, forewarning of high tax bills.

Scoffing at claims that some people might pay less tax than they now pay, Rowley quipped, “Don’t bother to tax me; Pass on the benefit.”

Rejecting the Government’s claim that the tax promoted equity between different people, he said there was no equity in North-West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) CEO Agatha Carrington being sent on leave pending an audit, while Udecott executive director, Calder Hart, remains in office, despite revelations at the Uff Commission of Inquiry.

Rowley made the point that the property tax is being imposed for something that is not a revenue-earner for him, that is, his home. He said that through no act of their own, persons living on Diego Martin Main Road might have found the value of their house climb over the years to $1 million or $2 million, and now be liable to the property tax, despite never having any intention to sell it or rent it out.

“If you try to defend the indefensible, you’ll create resentment and provoke people, and that is what we have at the moment.”

Rowley said in areas of his constituency, such as Upper Cemetery Street, there are residents who must pay water rates despite the fact that no water flows in the water-pipes laid down four years ago. He said any hike in such water rates under the property tax would now amount to provocation.

Rejecting claims that the property tax won’t cause hardship, he said, “I know a lot of people for whom $100 is a lot of money. A lot are struggling to make ends meet.”

Alluding to talks this week between Acting Prime Minister Dr Lenny Saith and Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding over Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines, he warned the Government not to fund Air Jamaica. He jibed that he would personally “mark” the dollar bills he was paying in property tax to ensure they were used for things such as hospitals and schools, not Air Jamaica.,112858.html

“I want to tell my Government tonight that the tax I pay, I marking meh money. And it is to buy medicine for the hospital, chalk for the schools and to pay old age pension…”
As he registered his strong objection to the property tax on Friday night in the House of Representatives, in the Red House, Port of Spain, Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley demanded that the revenues collected from this tax be spent responsibly.

6 thoughts on “Rowley hits property tax”

  1. Whilst the Police with brute force oppress citizens outside the Parliament, inside the Parliament, Ministers were laughing and asking how much was there outside, twelve??? (Le Gendre).
    The minister of Finance indicated that most people are in support of the property tax, this according to PNM constituency meetings, (well that says it all). But let’s assume this is true and considering what happened outside the Parliament on Friday, it means that there are those who support the tax and …then there are those who are beaten into submission.

    This Govnt would do anything to carryout it’s “mandate” (which by the way has nothing to do with improving our lives. But there are a blind few that continue to defend this “evidently corrupt” regime, they ask “who we go put” but knew exactly who to put when the UNC squandered our resources, other say the PNM is the lesser of the evils, may god (if he exist) help us. There is a slogan “PNM til ah dead” well hear mine “anti-PNM about to dead”

  2. Tina’s new maths

    Tuesday, December 22 2009

    Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing, Senator Tina Gronlund-Nunez, insulted the intelligence of new Housing Development Corporation (HDC) homeowners on Saturday, when she told them that the proposed Property Tax regime of three percent, which would replace the current Land and Building Taxes, “is much lower than the normal percent of between seven and ten for private homeowners.”

    She adds the somewhat puzzling statement that it was “being done in the interest of the regular man in the street,” whatever this means, “so that he could have a little more money in his pocket.”

    What was inferred in Senator Gronlund-Nunez’ advice was that homeowners would be paying less, when the Property Tax is introduced in 2010 and, specifically, that the three percent tax level which had been set would represent a reduction in their Lands and Building Tax liabilities.

    What the Junior Minister failed to tell them, however, was that the seven and ten percent Land and Building taxes were based on much lower rentable value of properties, while the proposed three percent was being based on clearly immensely higher rentable values. They will have a chance to find this out for themselves, when they are called upon to pay Lands and Buildings taxes for the rest of December and compare them next year with the new rates.

    The new homeowners, who were a captive audience on Saturday, may have been regarded by the Minister of State as persons who should have been willing to accept her new maths, that three percent of a higher sum should be considered less than seven or ten percent of “negligible” Annual Rateable Values (ARVs) set, in many cases, several decades ago.

    Recently, the Ministry had issued mini-brochures and held meetings ostensibly to explain to the general householder public what the planned Property Tax entailed. The lowest theoretical rent offered, and we emphasise theoretical, was $3,000 a month. This may have been regarded by the Ministry, though, as an average lower level rent today. Nevertheless, was Minister Gronlund-Nunez implying that the proposed tax on such housing units would be lower than that imposed on an average apartment or house constructed before, say, the start of the 1973 oil boom?

    The Junior Minister may have stepped, somewhat incautiously, out of her crease when she suggested that those who were objecting to the proposed new Property Tax had been cheating the system.

    Later, she appeared to have, unwittingly, contradicted herself on the issue of the planned three percent of rentable value being much lower than the normal percentage level of between seven and ten for private homeowners. “You should leave the protesting for those who have something to worry about,” she stated, adding “But soon, every property owner would be evaluated to show their true value.”

    What is instructive is that no private householder in Trinidad and Tobago is, officially, aware of what the amount per unit with respect to the proposed Property Tax will be for him/her. While the Junior Minister’s statement may appear to imply that she is privy to the assessing of property values for tax purposes, only a relative few are in this position.

    In the meantime, she has implied, in essence, that the recipients of new Housing Development Corporation homes should not march. “We are here today not by any means encouraging you to go marching anywhere. You have been given the opportunity of owning your own homes and we are asking you to ensure that you pay your installments on time, to pay your property tax bills on time and to pay your light bills on time, because we are sure you would pay your cellphone bills on time.”

    While the new owners of HDC constructed units are entitled to feel themselves grateful to the Housing Development Corporation and, by extension, the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago, generally, for the homes they have acquired, should they in March of next year discover that their Property Tax is somewhat higher than what is anticipated, would it not be their constitutional right to express their being upset at the level of tax demanded?,112980.html

  3. Property tax bills passed
    CONTROVERSIAL legislation introducing a new regime of property tax in this country was passed last night without Opposition support after a vote which was missed by Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley.

    Controversial Property Bill passed in Parliament
    Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira has taken ‘offence’ to the description of the Property Tax bill as a revenue-raising measure.

    Govt gang up on Rowley
    In what appeared to be a well planned attack, Prime Minister Patrick Manning and senior members of Government yesterday ganged up on dissident PNM Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley for his strong condemnation of controversial legislation to impose increases on property taxes.

    PM on Rowley: Stay tuned

    Taylor: Rowley does disservice to tax issue
    He said raising taxes are a natural part of what any government does and said the property tax would raise an estimated $250 million in revenue. “The government should have no excuse to make in wanting to increase taxation.

    …Rowley blasted over property tax criticisms

    Imbert to Rowley: Let go of that UDeCOTT obsession
    Leader of the House Colm Imbert launched a scathing attack against his fellow Government MP Dr Keith Rowley last evening for his criticism of the new property tax regime in the Parliament on Friday.

    Pensioners out of tax net says Imbert
    People in upper-class areas would pay the highest property taxes, while those who received old age pension would be exempted from paying the tax, PNM MP Colm Imbert said yesterday.

    Govt worse than Ebenezer Scrooge
    Kamla warns of legal action on Property Tax:

    Kamla: A UNC in power will scrap the property tax
    The UNC will scrap the property tax when it forms the next Government, UNC deputy leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar promised yesterday. Speaking in yesterday’s House of Representatives debate on the tax, Persad-Bissessar said people doing the usual Christmas season repairs—painting, renovations or additions to their homes—would be increasing the value of their property and could risk higher taxes.

    Tina’s new maths
    Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing, Senator Tina Gronlund-Nunez, insulted the intelligence of new Housing Development Corporation (HDC) homeowners on Saturday, when she told them that the proposed Property Tax regime of three percent, which would replace the current Land and Building Taxes, “is much lower than the normal percent of between seven and ten for private homeowners.”

  4. Ugly PNM scenes

    Newsday Editorial
    Wednesday, December 23 2009

    IT’S no surprise that the property tax has shown up divisions within the ruling PNM, notably between Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley and the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Patrick Manning.

    Last Friday in the Lower House debate on two Bills to introduce the new tax, Dr Rowley said the public is largely unhappy about having to pay the tax hikes to fund alleged large-scale Government squandermania, and by Monday the Government had hit back.

    Dr Rowley alleged that his constituents, at both ends of the social spectrum, have expressed their “anger, anxiety and resentment” towards the property tax.

    In an apparent reference to recent claims by Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira that the population accepts the tax, he scoffed that the Government should stop taking its own advice that nobody is annoyed over the hikes. He said that while people are not opposed to taxation per se, they did think the tax hikes could have been averted by wiser expenditure previously. Rowley queried the sums householders would be paying — perhaps in reference to Nunez-Tesheira’s claim that the average residential payment would be just $81 per month.

    “I suspect the three percent will be on valuations considerably higher than is being made out to be,” he cautioned, saying the three percent tax would be imposed on the rentable value of houses of price tag valued at $1 million or $2 million.

    On Monday, Lower House Colm Imbert hit out in a largely personal attack at Dr Rowley, accusing him of losing his reason, especially over the issue of Udecott and its executive chairman, Calder Hart. The same day, elsewhere, Manning himself called Rowley’s speech, “purely emotive and designed to promote an emotional response.”

    What is clear from Friday and Monday is that the knives are out, within the PNM.

    While there is talk of the PNM now “disciplining” Dr Rowley, we recall last year June on the other hand Dr Rowley telling party members to stand up against the “small clique” that he said has taken over the PNM.

    Although Manning did not speak on Monday but rather left his Ministers to reply to Rowley, the severity of their attack immediately brought back recollections of Manning’s harsh attack on Rowley last October in his “raging bull” speech on the Validation Bill to retroactively approve the Uff Commission of Inquiry into Udecott.

    We note that while last Friday Rowley merely criticised the property tax bills, in contrast the Government descended to attacking the personality of Dr Rowley.

    It’s almost like saying, if you can’t win the argument, just attack the man himself.

    On Monday, Imbert’s claim that Rowley has “lost all reason” was clearly a continuation of efforts by Manning last October to try to paint Rowley as a man supposedly blinded by hate. We find such personal attacks on Dr Rowley to be highly objectionable and totally unacceptable. The personal nature of the attacks on Monday clearly violated the parliamentary standing orders, against imputing improper motives to an MP, and we wonder why it was allowed to happen.

    Some might even say the fact that so many ministers were apparently roped in to attack Dr Rowley, is an indication of Government desperation. Last week was painful for the Government, given the anti-tax protests outside Red House, and the crash of the Copenhagen climate change talks, into whose forerunners — the Fifth Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting — the Government had invested so much money.

    If it were not for the distractions of Christmas and soon Carnival, the Government could have found itself in more trouble than it is already in, over the tax hikes on the heels of so much unpopular expenditure such as the Tarouba Stadium.,113032.html

    Rowley Bites Back
    A DAY after several of his colleagues attacked him in Parliament during debate of the package of property tax legislation, Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley yesterday fought back accusing Prime Minister Patrick Manning of orchestrating a personal attack on him during that debate.

    PNM Moves on Rowley
    Diego Martin West MP has crossed the line, say party officials

    No clear cut case against Rowley
    WHILE Prime Minister Patrick Manning hinted that disciplinary action could be taken against PNM Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley, making out a clear cut case against him would not be easy.

    Mixed views in Diego West over MP
    Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley has support within his constituency, when it comes to his stance in the Parliament against key Government policies such as the new property tax regime.

    …Mixed PNM views on Keith

    It’s not true
    PNM MP Keith Rowley is alleging that Attorney General John Jeremie told “untruths” about him in Parliament on Monday

    Jack: PM will pay
    Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner said yesterday Prime Minister Patrick Manning will pay for imposing the property tax upon the people of this country.

    Kamla gets QC on property tax
    SIPARIA MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday revealed she has enlisted the help of two eminent Queen’s Counsel (QC) from Barbados to assist her if she decides to take the Government to court over the Property Tax Bill 2009.

    Don’t pay property tax
    HOURS after Government passed the controversial Property Tax Bill, Tabaquite MP Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj urged supporters at a public meeting in Claxton Bay on Monday night, to not pay the property tax. He also pledged civil disobedience against the tax.

    We won’t pay new property tax
    Warning from Ramesh:

    People failed to heed warning
    Panday responds to property tax:

    Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday said yesterday that he warned the people about the People’s National Movement’s oppressive ways two years ago in vain, adding that the country was now seeing the evidence itself with the passage of yet another bill which will hurt the poor man.

  5. “Rowley said in areas of his constituency, such as Upper Cemetery Street, there are residents who must pay water rates despite the fact that no water flows in the water-pipes laid down four years ago.”
    Um, UM, Um! Talk about a politicians whose stock has fallen so quickly, that he is fast fading into obscurity and or irrelevancy. Can any one care to answer where this guy was four years ago? I recalled a time when Nizam Mohammed MP for Tacarigua and then Speaker of the House ,was chastising WASA via the austere Speaker’s Chair for not looking out for the water needs of his constituency. That is one of the fundamental difference in politicians who understand their primary duties,as opposed to hopeless comedians with lofty titles that masquerades on the big gullible media stage . This might very well be an important issue , but the leaderless movement are not only preaching an incorrect message , but to the wrong crowd. Hey fellas ,NAR beat the PNM for one reason only ,land distribution. Sou Sou lands was the catalyst. In essence, the voting public is much larger than the narrow interest of a few Trini bourgeois business entities, and landowning elites .
    Over a year ago , I sent the Mason Hall kid a letter . Perhaps he lost it. Since so much is at stake , here it is once more. Outside of the Dubai economic meltdown , most of the points are still relevant.

  6. Property Tax a ‘done deal’
    Independent senator Professor Ramesh Deosaran said by presenting the legislation as a money bill, Government has diminished the power of the Senate to make any changes to it. “It will now be a matter of shaping public opinion in the right way,” he stated. Deosaran said he planned to debunk some of the propaganda that was in the public domain about the bill.

    Unfortunate advice
    Former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj’s reported advice to persons attending a public meeting in Claxton Bay on Monday, if followed, could result in several of them facing the real possibility of losing their homes.

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