Some of the new tax measures outlined in Budget 2017 have already attracted much criticism from sections of society, and based on this, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo believes that government should withdraw or amend the $250B budget.
Jagdeo expressed this view on Friday during a press conference held at the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Church Street.
On Monday, during the 2017 Budget presentation, Finance Minister Winston Jordan listed new tax measures to be introduced in 2017, stating that these were part of a new tax reform process.
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) and Chartered Accountants group, Ram and McRae have both agreed that the measures could have negative impacts on the economy and that the country has been left directionless.
And according to Jagdeo, these “offensive and antithetical measures” introduced in the budget will result in “repressiveness.”
“No president should want repressiveness during his tenure in office. I am urging the President to convene his Cabinet and have another look at this budget; to withdraw it or if that is not feasible or desirable, to examine the concerns of our society…” the Opposition Leader said.
He argued that these measures which are most offensive and repressive will devastate the lives of many poor people and cause Guyana’s productive sectors to regress.
And in blaming the government for what he described on Monday as the “worst budget ever” in Guyana’s history, the opposition leader said that if a process to re-examine the budget is initiated, the PPP is prepared to share its ideas. These ideas, he said, includes how to grow the economy, how government can enhance the welfare of people and how incentives can be created for the private sector.
“We have lots of ideas on how this can happen. We do not have to resort if these draconian measures.
However, during budget consultations earlier this year, the opposition party opted to sit out due to processes and actions by the Ministry of Finance the party did not agree with.
Jagdeo also examined some of the new tax measures, such as the environmental tax which will push the cost of beverages up. He noted that that component of the framework to “Green the economy” will attract a cost which will have to be shouldered by the average Guyanese consumer.
“Environmental tax will result in billions of dollars being collected from ordinary people. The people of this country will have to pay for the greening of the economy. It has become a revenue earning activity” he said.
Similarly, he pointed out that the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) on water bills over $1,500 and electricity bills over $10,000 will significantly impact small businesses since these businesses will not be able to claim back for monies expended on VAT. Additionally, he noted that adding VAT to medical supplies and educational materials will affect the average Guyana in a significant way.
VAT, which was implemented under the Jagdeo administration, was reduced in the 2017 budget from 16% to 14%.
Reiterating his call for a re-examination or retraction of the Budget, the Opposition Leader said that if the government does not take this course of action, then components of the budget could be challenged in the court. One such measure, he pointed out, is the ability of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to access a person’s private bank account to extract money if they are found to have been evading taxes.