Revenue measures come like a thief in the dark of the night

Trade union representative in the Senate, Rae Roberts has blasted the 15-month old New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell for the large amount of taxes being imposed on workers in Grenada.

Speaking at last Friday’s sitting of Parliament, Sen. Roberts said that the Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC) is reluctantly giving support to the latest batches of tax measures brought into Parliament by the Mitchell administration.

He accused government of coming like “a thief” in the dark of the night to seek parliamentary approval for the measures that would see increases in taxes on some products for motor vehicles.

According to Sen. Roberts, he is questioning the seriousness of those who are seeking to brand the NNP administration as a “Working Class” government given the sleuth of taxes that it keeps rolling out to affect the pockets of workers.

This is an obvious reference to claims made by former Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter David, a one-time General Secretary of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to take out full-fledged membership of the ruling party.

THE NEW TODAY reproduces an edited version of the address delivered in the Senate by the TUC representative in Parliament on May 30:

Mr. President – In presenting this Amendment, reducing concessions given to statutory bodies by 50 percent, I had expected the government to present an analysis of the respective state-owned companies so we all have a true picture of the financial situation. Instead here is Senator (Winston) Garraway coming to the Parliament with absolutely no data and you want me to support an amendment without a logical analysis.

However, let me make it very clear,  the TUC is strongly opposed to the removal of concessions currently given to TAMCC. This is our premier academic institution and we ought to give it the maximum financial support.

Unfortunately, today the government is taking away vital support from our children’s education and we are extremely concerned.

The Government gives TAMCC approximately one million dollars a month of which 95 per cent is used pay salaries – just five percent to meet the needs of equipment and student activities, most inadequate.

Mr.President, taking away 50 percent  concession means that the College will have to find more money to purchase things like computers, teaching materials. Cearly, Mr. President,in this very depressed economy of Dr. Keith Mitchell’s making – raising money from the private sector will be difficult.

I cannot speak for the Chamber of Commerce but in conversation with many business men and women – the story (emerging) is 2014 is a disaster thus far – don’t talk about small shops in the community and that is where I buy and credit. The news is – these are the hardest times in Grenada.

Mr. President, a significant number of the TAMCC students come from poor families and to survive and to maintain quality education, and technology, that cost money – then the new cost to the College has to be passed on to the students.

And it’s their mothers and fathers to pay the bill – the same people the government has imposed more than a dozen new taxes and user fees on. Where will they get the money? This government isn’t demonstrating any love for poor working people! It is taxing them to death!

Mr. President, Grenada has to be deeply concern. This action by the government could

We in the TUC call upon the government not to proceed with this cut in concessions to TAMCC by 50 percent. It sends the wrong message – in fact it demonstrates the government’s lack of seriousness for education.

The Government cannot be talking about a 21st century Educated Grenada and yet creating hurdles for quality education.

What is most unfortunate about these revenue measures is that they all come like a thief in the dark of the night. TAMCC and the other affected state bodies have very little time to develop and institute alternative money making measures.

The new government policy takes effect in August, just two months from now. Such a change in government policy should have been planned and implemented over a 12-month period.

Mr. President, through you to Senator Steele – if this is the brilliance and creativity you so magnificently credited this government of Dr, Keith Mitchell with, I strongly suspect all is not well with you. As a private sector man that’s not how you go about constructing a successful business.

You criticise the former Finance Minister – you blame him for just about everything wrong with the economy – and lacking creativity. But this is all to confuse people.

Let me tell you I have worked with government for 38 years from 1975 to 2013 and I have not seen any previous government operate like yours – slapping taxes upon taxes on ordinary people.

You are undermining and destabilising TAMCC, the students and the instructors. Think about it.

Mr. President, is there anything else to tax except the growing construction of tombs in the various cemeteries around the country?  Believe it or not this government – branded by those who are all about self interest and using the poor – say this is the working class and ordinary Grenadian people government; however, the evidence says the complete opposite.

In three/four sittings of the Parliament this government has passed more than a dozen pieces of legislation – all raising taxes, hurting the hard working people.

The late Sir Eric Gairy, our greatest trade unionist, must be turning in his grave to hear that this is now a working class and ordinary people party.

This is not even a government for the rich.  Today alone, we have eight resolutions, and amendments to Excise taxes for debate and approval. The Government is aggressively taking our pennies to pay a national debt of more than two billion dollars.

Mr. President, according to the IMF, Grenada’s financial problem began in 2002/03. A boastful Prime Minister borrowed millions and millions of dollars as well as providing government guarantees to so-called foreign investors such as the Levera Hotel project and today we have very little to show for all the money, except the bills which you the working people and pensioners are being heavily taxed to pay.

Only if your name is Peter –  you will call this government a working class party. Remember his coronation in a St. Andrew community – so he must be experiencing Paradise.

Mr. President, even those on the other side, government senators are crying out. Be brave, my friends – tell your leader and my distinguished Minister of Finance and Prime Minister that the mountain of taxes are a heavy burden.

He is definitely unconcerned and even uncaring. Here is the proof – our leader is taking a big entourage to New York and Canada for Town Hall meetings which could cost in excess of $60 .000. Is there a need for three ministers, a former Foreign Minister, and others to travel at that expense?

Senator Garraway, don’t tell me the state is not paying the bill – show me the proof – bring bills!  A more disciplined approach and cost cutting measure is the Prime Minister along with our ambassadors in the USA facilitating the respective Town Hall meetings.

Mr. President, this behaviour does not send a message of a country experiencing serious austerity measures and an IMF program.

And that’s not all – the Cabinet now has another senior minister who will receive an increase salary among others; US$500.000 to the Caribbean Premier League to stage matches in Grenada – only Grenada and St. Kitts – the two worse economies in the Caribbean – are paying to host games. This is an abuse of taxpayers money.

Mr. President, it troubles me. Here is the Prime Minister going from one community to another, boasting the IMF Program will bring millions and millions into Grenada – 300 million – a lot of money!

Mr. President, the Leader of Government Business knows better than that, he knows 300 million is a drop in the bucket – we need two/three billion dollars – then you talking money.

Here is the Prime Minister’s script – confuse ordinary people – tell ordinary people that

Working people – the IMF is like a Saturday morning butcher. It is here to slaughter the animal, and in Grenada’s case, it is to supervise the medication we are taking – and if it is not producing the results come next year it will be more severe harsh pain.

Two/three years ago then in opposition, one of today’s senior government officials was on TV saying people were dying like flies because they could get no work to buy food. I will not go that far today because I don’t have the evidence – however, what I am sure about is that many workers can’t paid their bills.

Mr. President we are supporting these measures reluctantly – all in an effort to get our economy stable

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