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A Summary of the Standing Finance Committee by Suruj Rambachan

As the Standing Finance Committee continues to sit, after four days of questioning by the Opposition it is becoming clear that the Government has taken an approach to say “we will get back to you in writing.” Maybe they will or maybe they will not. If they don’t I intend to file questions for both oral and written answers in Parliament. Of course the track record of the PNM for answering questions is well known, compared to the People’s Partnership which answered 95% of all questions filed in Parliament.

There are rules in Parliament now (new standing orders) which can seek to have the answers. However I am not sure that they can be compelled. As a result we will have to resort to two things. Firstly using the Freedom Of Information Act and secondly motions on the adjournment, which I intend to use.

From the discussions thus far we are pretty well clear on the following:

1. Property taxes are back and new rates are going to applied eventually that has to do with annual rental value, which will send property taxes up.

2. The revenue Authority is going to be implemented.

3. Vat Collections for 2015/16 is way above the additional $4 million spoken of in the budget. The figures reveal it is about 6 billion dollars,

4. Food prices are going to increase as a result of widened vatable base of products to be taxed at 12.5%.

5.Small businesses are going to placed at a disadvantage in terms of operating costs due to the increase in teh ceiling value (from 360,00 to 500,000) for companies paying vat.They will pay but they will not recover any vat.

6. The 72,000 personal tax deduction will not benefit a large segment of the working class. You must earn at least 6,000 per month to benefit.

7. A means test is likely to be applied for persons who wish to qualify for GATE. AS Minister Imbert has aske3d, Why does a person whose family is rich be entitled to GATE?

8. There is areal possibility of further increases in the price of super gas and diesel fuel.

9. There will be another Budget after six months as already suggested by the Government.

10. Local Govt reform will be initiated towards the goal of achieving Executive Councils and in line with the THA model. However there appears to be issues with recruiting and training 1400 Municipal Police Officers as well as providing accommodation for them similar to that which exists in Chaguanas Borough Corporation.

11.Local government corporations will not be able to deliver all the services they are expected to deliver due to cuts in areas like cemeteries, roads and bridges and drainage.

12.WE were assured by the line Minister for local government and rural development that work will commence on the Princes Town Administrative Complex and the Chaguanas Abbatoir as well as the Chaguanas market this fiscal year.

13.WE know now that all short term employment is under review as well as short term contracts. There is a strong likelihood that these contracts unless absolutely necessary will not be renewed.

14.Although we have been told that Caribbean Airlines will not be placed on the chopping block in terms of assets to be sold, we have not been given the list of assets to be sold. WE want a full disclosure on assets to be sold as well as a cost benefit analysis of such a decision.

15.WE now know that based on the projected budget price of US$ 45 per barrel of oi that the savings on fuel subsidy will be 3.1 billion dollars.

16. the cost of doing business is expected to rise as a result of new rates for green fund and the business levy. These will most likely be passed on to the consumer.

17. Given the response by the Minister of Finance on the allocations to the children’s Hospital there is now doubt as to whether it will be commissioned in the short run. The Minister of Health has admitted that he has not visited it as yet. let us hope this does not become like the Biche High School.

18. Less houses are going to be constructed this year given the “violent slash” of the Housing budget. The result of this is that the middle and lower middle groups in the country will suffer for accommodation and face high rental costs due to shortage of public housing.

19. It is not clear as to whether laptops will be distributed to students this year. No clear answer was forthcoming from the Minister of Education.

20. The Agricultural Development Bank now has 100 million dollars available for lending to Farmers. Please note that 75 million was received by the bank on August 20th 2015 making it difficult o lend in the last fiscal year.

Thank you

Suruj Rambachan MP.
Member of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives.

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