Grenadians continue to be denied the benefits of lower oil price on the international market as it has again soared locally in less than one month.
That’s the claim being made by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) headed by former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke.
Congress has charged that users of gasoline and diesel now have to dig deeper into their pockets to purchase these items.
The cash-strapped Keith Mitchell Administration, on October 18 added a further $0.50 to the Petrol tax, which has now brought the price per gallon to $5.50.
In making the announcement, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement that the adjustment was necessary in light of government’s decision not to proceed with the second round of Property tax increase, and with the introduction of the Financial Activities Tax which are provided for in the June 2014 Letter of Intent with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“As a consequence of these decisions not to proceed with the aforementioned tax measures, an alternative revenue measure had to be found to ensure fiscal targets are met going forward. To this end, government increased the Petrol tax in September and October,” said the Ministry of Finance.
However, the further increase has come under attack by Congress with one of its Caretaker candidates describing it as “highway robbery.”
Sylvester Quarless who owns a number of gas stations throughout Grenada told a public meeting of the main opposition party at Cafe, St. Andrew’s last week Wednesday that between the period of May and October 18th the petrol tax was increased by $2.50 per gallon by the Mitchell regime.
Quarless likened the increase to part two of the movie “Fast and Furious.”
“This is highway petroleum robbery,” he told the gathering in the Constituency of St. Andrew South-east.
Quarless, the NDC Caretaker for the neighbouring St. Andrew’s South-west dealt at length with the windfall government is reaping from taxpayers through the petrol tax.
He said that in 2014, Grenada used 6,993,572 gallons of gasoline and with the current price rate of $5.50 that is now imposed that would bring in $34,967,860 into government coffers within a one year period.
Quarless noted that last year, the country used 3,127,136 gallons of diesel and if the current price is applied then Government will now be able to earn in one year $15,635,680.
The NDC Caretaker said that when both sums are added up government will be collecting $60,603,540 from taxpayers from the Petrol tax.
Quarless, a former Minister in the Tillman Thomas Government, charged that the hike in the petrol tax by the Mitchell-led government will affect a large cross-section of the Grenadian community including motorists, fishermen, farmers and labourers who are able to obtain a job with their lawn mowers and weed-eaters.
He indicated that for ten years there was no change in the petrol tax, but within a matter of five months $2.50 was added to the tax by the NNP administration.
He said government no longer has to seek Parliamentary approval to increase the petrol tax because earlier this year, the 15 NNP Parliamentarians approved the Petrol Tax Amendment Bill which gives the Minister of Energy the right to just sign a Statutory Rules and Order (SRO) decreeing a new price for petrol.
Quarless said had government not imposed the $2.50 on a gallon of gas, consumers would have been paying $11.03 per gallon at the pump for their fuel.
He stated that government is taxing the people “out of existence.”
The former Government Minister also told the Congress meeting that things are now bleak for the rural economy.
He said since the NNP took office in February 2013, three banks that operated in the Town of Grenville have ceased operations and 21 other small businesses have closed their doors.
Meanwhile, NDC has announced that it will be taking to the streets of St. George’s today (Friday, October 30) for a peaceful protest march.
Deputy Chairman Glen Noel who made the announcement during the public meeting at Café said “the mass demonstration and protest” is against the deplorable state of health on the island, and the number of taxes placed on the backs of the people.
NDC is claiming that since coming into office the NNP Government has imposed 28 different taxes, fees, levies and licenses on Grenadians.
The protest march begins at 4:30 p.m. from outside the Grenada National Stadium.
Noel said the protest march is to show the people of Grenada that the 28-year old Political party is concerned and care about the issues affecting them.
“It’s time Grenadians stand up and demand more and better from the NNP,” he said.