The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has publicly expressed strong objection to the 5% tax proposal by Independent Candidate for South St. George, Terrence Forrester to help boost relief efforts for countries hit hard by two devastating hurricanes, Irma and Maria.
Speaking on the issue at the party’s weekly press conference in St. George’s on Monday, NDC caretaker for the Town of St. George, Claudette Joseph commented on Forrester’s call for the government to “impose a 5% tax on services and utility bills for a short period of 3 months to help raise much needed funds to our sisters and brothers.”
According to Forrester, government can pass through Parliament an emergency bill, which will give authorisation to utility companies, Grenlec and NAWASA and telephone companies FLOW and Digicel, to charge each Grenadian 5% for the next 3 months on top of their bills.
He is optimistic that the island can raise just over $5 million a month toward the relief assistance for the affected islands.
However, the NDC Caretaker said that “while this is indeed a noble suggestion” by Forrester, as an opposition party, Congress is “acutely aware that our people are already heavily overtaxed”.
Joseph pointed to the almost 30 new taxes and duties that have been imposed on Grenadians with the implementation of the just ended three-year International Monetary Fund (IMF) supported Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
She noted that since the structural adjustment programme ended about 8 months ago, none of the taxes or measures that were imposed have been removed “and we have not gotten relief as a people”.
She said, “it is for those reasons the NDC cannot support the call for an additional tax on the people of Grenada at this time no matter how small”.
Instead, the NDC is proposing for the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration to use funds emanating from already imposed taxes as another avenue to raise money to assist neighbouring islands.
“Having regard to the fact that the 5.5% tax paid on every gallon of gasoline and diesel, (which) is by far the highest in the OECS countries…we therefore suggest that for the next three or four months, government set aside at least $1.50 from every gallon of gasoline or diesel sold and apply these monies to a special disaster relief assistance fund to be donated to our affected Caribbean brothers and sisters,” Joseph said.
“That way, we will be able to make a meaningful and tangible, substantial contribution, without further burdening the people of Grenada with another tax. By our estimation such an initiative would yield about $1.5 million per month,” she added.
Government has already announced a one-million dollars aid package for the islands in the northern Caribbean that were affected by the first hurricane – Irma that devastated Anguilla, Barbuda and some of the U.S and British territories.