GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has dismissed the GUY$267/.1 billion budget presented to the Parliament on Monday, describing it “disastrous…unimaginative and torturous”.
PPP and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo told a news conference on Monday night soon after Finance Minister Winston Jordan presented the fiscal package that the opposition n is questioning the decision behind the move to grant an amnesty to companies and individuals that have not submitted tax returns which would result in a waiver of the interest rates.
“Why now? Why this year? Why not from the very beginning of their term? Is it that there are a few companies that they know of who have large outstanding interest and penalties that would accrue to them and they are trying to help those companies by giving them a hundred percent write-off on all interest and penalties if they do it in the next few months and then 50 percent if they do it by September?” he said.
Jagdeo told reporters that the measure smacked of a deal and called for those persons owing taxes to pay up.
Jordan had told legislators that the amnesty would benefit all delinquent taxpayers, corporate and individual, who are outstanding in the filing of true and correct tax returns and payment of their true and correct taxes.
He said the amnesty will be in effect from January 1, 2018 through September 30, 2018 and taxpayers who file and pay all principal taxes on or before June 30, 2018 will have all interest and penalties waived, while those who file and pay all principal taxes between July 01, 2018 and September 30, 2018 will have 50 per cent of interest and penalties waived.
Taxpayers who expect to benefit from this amnesty must file true and correct returns. Those found to be in violation will be subject to an audit and the attendant penalties and interest will be applied. The Guyana Revenue Authority will be devoting increased resources to enforcement of the income tax laws, Jordan noted.
But Jagdeo, who released his party’s own fiscal measures during the budget, said the 2018 fiscal package by the David Granger government is characterized by lower economic growth, more taxes, and old projects among other negatives that do not augur well for the future of the country.
“It has failed on every standard… there is nothing here that inspires, there is nothing to say to any group of Guyanese that I have a better year to look forward to,” Jagdeo said, adding that the finance minister had basically read out the work program of every ministry while back pedalling to reverse several measures in the previous budget.
“Work programmes were elevated in the National Assembly to plans. So, we hear about duplexes being build and titles being issued… we hear 100 families benefit from drainage project. This sort of detail including which building to be painted and of wheelchairs for persons at the palms,” he added.
“They have just fulfilled that view that they have lived up to the low expectations that people have of the government,” Jagdeo said, noting that except for a GUY$500 increase in old age pensions, the government has not lived up to its promise of a significant hike in that welfare package.
Jagdeo, a former finance minister, said the opposition had hoped that Jordan would have addressed key areas of concern, “but he has failed on every one of parameters which include jobs and welfare, growth and development and clarity of the government’s vision and where the country is going”.
He said the government had sought to deceive the population by indicating there would be no new taxes.
But he made reference to the decision to re-evaluate properties in towns and villages after several decades.
“Although he says there are new taxes in the budget, they are introducing a measure that, now having exhausted the tax measures at the national level, they are now taking it to the municipalities and the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs),” Jagdeo said.
Jordan who had presented the fiscal package under the theme “The Journey to the Good Life Continues”, said that the “outdated land values must be addressed” and in 2018, government would spearhead countrywide valuation to bring all property values up to date. – CMC