Persad-Bissessar: "VAT changes one of biggest political lies ever"

Friday, January 29, 2016 - 20:00

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is accusing the Government of perpetuating one of the biggest political lies in this country with the changes to the VAT regime to take place on Monday.

Persad-Bissessar says the changes will result on more financial hardship for thousands of citizens, something she says was not communicated to the population when the measures were introduced.

The following is a statement from the Office of the Leader of the Opposition:

"With the introduction of a new Value Added Tax regime (VAT) on Monday February 1st , the Rowley government will implement one of the biggest political lies ever told to the population of this country.

When the Rowley PNM launched its manifesto in late August 2015, they trumpeted a proposed VAT decrease from 15% to 12.5% as a highlight of their pledge to ease the economic burden on citizens.

Those who were swayed by the Rowley PNM promise to reduce VAT last August must now ask themselves if they ever thought the Rowley government would use that promise to raise VAT by 12.5% on thousands of items that were zero rated.

Many voters believed the presenter of the manifesto but never expected that once he became the Finance Minister he would betray them and put a 12.5% tax on thousands of items – mainly food – that the People’s Partnership government had made tax exempt.

Today the Rowley government has gone into full-spin mode with Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie trying to market the idea that the change will bring greater benefit to the people.

However, no amount of propaganda can change the reality that this is a diabolical lie being perpetuated on the population. While some items will have a lower VAT from Monday, people will be paying more for those items that have now been added to the VATABLE list.

Minister Cuffie has tried to rationalize this by suggesting that people will save money on taxes since those earning up to $72,000 a year won’t have to pay income tax. But while that is so, the reality is that nearly half of the working population won’t benefit from that measure because they do not fall into that income range.

The truth is that the Rowley government’s VAT tax grab will pick the pockets of the poorest in our society and increase their food bills significantly. Even those who might benefit from the tax break will find that while they may pay $250 a month less in income tax, they will have to give back twice that amount – or more - just to buy what they were/are purchasing before Monday 1st February. The harsh truth is that on Monday people will pay 12.5% more for basic items that are today exempt from tax. For example if you are buying salt or oil today, on Monday you will pay 12.5 % more for it.

This is conclusive evidence that the Rowley government lacks compassion for those in greatest need and, is deceitful and cannot be trusted to introduce any policy initiatives to benefit the people."