Move over Roger Luncheon, there’s a new ‘spinner’ in town and his name is Ashni Kumar Singh! Singh isn’t exactly ‘new’ but from 2007 to now, Guyana has watched this young bowler move from technocrat finance minister to versatile politician as wily as they come.
And now under the captaincy of President Ramotar, Singh seems to be exuding extra confidence these days. Word is that ever since his disastrous performance in the Jagdeo lawsuit, the PPP/C administration has been looking to groom a young spin doctor to replace the veteran spinner who over the years has toiled away consistently from the Office of the President.
Like Dr Luncheon, Dr Ashni Singh has his way with words except he is much clearer and more animated speaker. He waxes eloquently and metaphorically: “It is easy to brandish the scissors as if an emblem of the tyranny of one”, he told the Opposition in his Budget rebuttal speech. His speeches are almost always accompanied with much panache and gusto.
As for stamina, the new spinner has that, as is regularly demonstrated by his long budget speeches and lengthy rebuttals. This year he waxed for almost two hours in his rebuttal speech and would have certainly gone on for two hours more had it not been for the intervention of Speaker Raphael Trotman.
He has a ‘doosra’ (that lovely surprise delivery) as evident in his attempt to convince the National Assembly that lowering the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) would benefit the wealthy more than the poor. “Anybody who objectively abandons the temptation of popular political appeal and objectively and seriously examines the Value Added Tax would soon discover that a reduction in the Value Added Tax will bring little or no benefit to the poor people of this country. In fact Mr Speaker, the most vulnerable will benefit least from a cut in VAT and it is in fact the best heeled that will benefit most from a cut in VAT,” the new spinner declared.
In a hypothetical scenario he painted to the National Assembly, Singh said that an employee who takes home $49,500 a month will spend about $25,000 on basic food items, pay electricity and telephone bills, buy clothing, pay for public transportation and set aside $5,000 as savings. “The only VATable items in that list are his telephone bill and clothing and he pays at 16 percent a total of $1,280 dollars a month out of his $49,500 a month take home pay. Mr Speaker a cut in the VAT from 16 to 12 percent will result in him paying not $1,280 worth of VAT on his consumption basket but $960, resulting in a saving in the grand sum of $320 a month.”
On the other hand, a wealthy person with an income of $1M is likely to spend on more “VATable” items along with the basic items that do not attract VAT and would be in a better position to spend on luxury goods such as flat screen TVs, Ipads and entertainment in addition to saving a hypothetical $300,000 per month.
“Mr Speaker, hypothetical Person B on the basis of his consumption basket will incur VAT at 16 percent in a total of $98,400 of VAT a month on that consumption basket. Consider a cut in VAT to 12 percent, that 4 percentage point cut will bring down Person B’s VAT bill to $73,800 and generate for him a monthly saving of $24,600,” the spinner declared.
“It is indisputable that a cut in VAT will benefit wealthy people more than it will benefit poor people; that is indisputable.”
That is why, Singh argued, the government has chosen instead to progressively raise the income tax threshold with this year’s move from $40,000 to $50,000 per month removing some 21,000 persons from the tax net.
It sounded nice but it yet remains to be seen if anyone in the public is impressed by the rhetoric especially the poor.
It doesn’t matter though; Singh seems a man on a mission. First things, first, he wants his budget passed—it’s his first major hurdle in what may be a long journey.
Watch out Robert Persaud! The new spinner may out bowl you in the bid to be the PPP’s next presidential candidate!