Charging that the economy was deteriorating and that thousands of workers had lost jobs, the parliamentary opposition on Monday submitted a motion to Parliament with proposals for the 2018 budget and key among these is the reversal of VAT on a range of areas and the axing of plans to shutter three sugar estates.
In the recital to the motion, PPP/C MPs Irfaan Ali and Gail Teixeira argued that all indicators are pointing to an economy that is deteriorating and which requires urgent “counter cyclical policies”. They further argued that the government’s tax-oriented approach to the economy has caused it to slide and that thousands of jobs are at risk.
Under fiscal and taxation policies, they called for the withdrawal of VAT on items that were previously zero-rated and the rescinding of new fees and licences from the 2016 and 2017 budgets. They also want VAT removed from essential food items, electricity, water, education goods and services, heavy-duty machinery and local products in the forestry sector among other areas.
A major plank of their proposals is the saving of the sugar industry. Aside from reversing the planned closure/privatisation of estates, the MPs want a suspension of the proposed Special Purpose Unit to handle privatisation/diversification of the industry. Ali and Teixeira want the government to pursue a diversification study of the industry and a comprehensive socio-economic impact assessment.
On the transparency front, the PPP/C MPs urged that an international firm be hired to trace assets held overseas by former and present government officials. They also want an international firm to do a facts-based check on the acquisition of state assets from 1970 to the present. The MPs also called on the government to publish the Public Procurement Commission report into the $632m drug procurement scandal that snared both the Ministry of Public Health and the Georgetown Public Hospital.
On the electricity front, the legislators appealed for an end to the constant blackouts and to restore Wartsila management of power plants.
For the mining sector, the motion seeks the reversal of VAT on equipment, the tributors tax and the 2% final tax. It also wants unallocated oil blocks to be auctioned.
In the security sector, the MPs called for a report on all aspects of the loss of 17 lives and destruction of property that occurred in the March 2016 Camp St Prison disturbances and what measures have been taken to implement the recommendations of the 2016 Commission of Inquiry. They also want a similar report in relation to the July 9th 2017 jailbreak that saw the demolition of the Camp Street jail. They called for the converting of the Camp Street Prison into a remand detention centre and the implementing of the recommendation of the UN Working Group of Peoples of African descent which called for the closure of the Lusignan Prison.
A host of other proposals were made.