Trade Union Representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts is calling on the Keith Mitchell-led administration to rescind its decision to reduce exemptions and concessions to the island’s lone tertiary institution.
The T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) is one of the statutory bodies in the country that will be affected by a 50% cut in exemptions and concessions from Custom duties and taxes, as part of the New National Party’s Homegrown Programme in attempt to cut cost and raise revenue.
The Act, which is expected to be fully implemented on August 1 was passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives last week Tuesday and Thursday respectfully.
“Where a statutory body now enjoys any percentage of exemption or concession from the payment of custom duties and taxes, any such percentage is now reduced by 50%,” the Act says.
Some of Government Statutory bodies which will be affected by this new measure includes the Cruise Ship Complex, National Insurance Scheme (NIS), National Water and Sewage Authority (NAWASA), Grenada Ports Authority, Grenada Development Bank (GDB), Grenada Hospital Authority, Grenada Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), Grenada National Stadium Authority, Grenada Solid Waste Management Authority, TA. Marryshow Community College, Gravel Concrete and Emulsion Corporation, Grenada Tourism Authority, National Lottery Authority (NLA) and Spice Mas Corporation.
In his contribution to the debate in the Senate last week Thursday, Roberts strongly opposed the reduction saying that the drastic cut in tax and the short period for implementation could seriously affect students.
The trade union representative said he expected government to present an analysis of the respective state-owned companies giving a true picture of their financial situation but nothing of the sort came before the Senate.
“Instead here is Senator (Winston) Garraway (Parliamentary Secretary for Information) coming to the Parliament with absolutely no data and you want me to support an amendment without a logical analysis”, Sen. Roberts told the Upper House.
Under the TAMM budget, 95% of the monies from government are used to pay salary while the other five percent is earmarked to meet the cost of equipment and student activities.
Sen. Roberts stated that a significant number of TAMCC students come from poor families in the countryside and the financial reductions will affect them.
“…The new cost to the College has to be passed on to the students – and it is their mothers and fathers to pay the bill – the same people the government has imposed more than a dozen new taxes and 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!”
The long-standing trade unionist feared that the move by the Mitchell regime against TAMCC could make College education more expensive in Grenada.
“We in the TUC call upon the government not to proceed with this cut in concession to TAMCC by 50 %. 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,” Sen. Roberts told the Senate session.
According to the TUC representative, “what is most unfortunate about these revenue measures is that they all come like a thief in the dark of the night”
He said TUC is deeply concerned that the affected state bodies were given very little time to develop and institute alternative moneymaking measures and suggested that the change should be planned and implement over a 12-month period.
“…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 criticize 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.
Sen. Roberts accused the Mitchell regime of “undermining and destabilising TAMCC” especially the students and Lecturers.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nicholas Steel presented the bill in the House of Representatives in which he justified the reduction in exemptions and concessions by saying that state bodies too must find cost-cutting measures to become competitive in the business environment.
He said that despite the decision being a difficult one for government to take at this point in time, it was the right decision.
“We are not casting out statutory bodies into the wilderness – just asking them to take a 50% cut in concessions in support they get from the State …. It is a bitter pill but one that must be administered to stop the free-fall of the economy”, he added.
The Foreign Affairs minister accused the former government of taking advantage of statutory bodies such as NIS and “using it like a bank, draining it of its finances.”
Legal Affairs Minister, Elvin Nimrod, supported the change citing the need for government to enhance revenue.
“The actions are painful but necessary if we have to emerge victorious from this crisis,” he said.
The deputy prime minister credited his administration for introducing more taxes rather than selling its way out of the country’s financial crisis.
“Mr. Speaker, I heard people saying this government is taxing its way out of this crisis, but Mr. Speaker I know this government is not trying to sell its way out of this crisis”, he added.
“Mr. Speaker, I heard people saying this government is taxing its way out of this crisis, but Mr. Speaker I know this government is not trying to sell its way out of this crisis,” he said.
Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr Keith Mitchell expressed concern that statutory bodies have been guilty of creating jobs for the “boys and girls” who are receiving massive salaries.
The Grenadian leader believes that measures such as this one should have been implemented a long time ago and should not have waited for a structural programme.
Minister for Economic Development, Trade, Planning and Cooperatives, Oliver Joseph, agrees that the measure should have been already implemented.
He believes that these bodies will never be able to support itself if they continue to receive the kind of Government support as seen in the past.