According to a statement on Monday by the opposition Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), the introduction of new taxes and the increase or verification of existing taxes seems to be a common feature with the Progressive National Party (PNP) when it becomes the government.
“What is disheartening about these taxes is the imbalance between the imposition of taxes and the corresponding social and economic benefit for the taxpayers. What is further distressing is the fact that we seem not to have a close season for taxes. New taxes and increases are all year round and there seems to be no relief in sight for the poor and those who are becoming poorer,” the PDM said.
The PDM statement continued:
The economic reports have concluded that our system of taxation as crude as it appears to be, has produced strong and reliable revenue for the governments over the years. The interim administration was determined to introduce value added tax to the Turks and Caicos Islands without the research, consultation or education on its operation, effects and benefits.
The PDM opposed the imposition of VAT and provided measures the government should take in the event it no longer wished to introduce VAT at 15%. The government has betrayed the support and confidence of both the people and the Peoples’ Democratic Movement’s members in the House of Assembly by pursuing a battery of tax initiatives that, as we told them, were not suitable or effective and tend to be inflationary when they are put into effect. The overall impact of the package of taxes that the government is implementing is resulting in a tax level much higher than the 15% VAT. The government has refused to go after taxes and revenues that are outstanding, reduce unnecessary expenditure especially in the area of travel, or take steps to stimulate the economy and create jobs for Turks and Caicos Islanders.
Lack of Transparency
Despite the calls for a higher level of transparency in government that is embodied in the constitution, the code of conduct for persons in public life and the statement of governance principles, just to name a few guidelines, this government continues to behave in defiance of all guidelines and conduct business in a manner that not only lacks transparency but they refuse to be accountable to the House of Assembly or the people. At the last meeting of the House of Assembly, the minister of finance introduced and led the debate on a motion to write off balances for loans to staff of government and bank balances in access of $5 million. This is a matter that is before the Public Accounts Committee and the minister ought not to bring the motion to write off millions without proper documentation. There was no mention of the bank or banks that had balances for the government that the government is seeking to use its numerical strength to write off. The people had a right to know the truth and there is a duty on the part of the government to tell the people the truth, and it is the official opposition’s job to press the government to disclose the truth behind the race to write off and forgive debts seemingly owed to the government, while at the same time the government continues to levy more tax on the people to raise money.
New Tax Hikes for October 2013
The number of tax hikes since this government took office almost a year ago is a disincentive to business and a source of discouragement to the hard working people who are struggling to survive off stagnant incomes and wages, a marked reduction in the purchasing power of their disposable income and mounting inflation that seem to be triggered by government’s frequent announcement of pending tax hikes.
The month of September has been particularly challenging for many, especially parents with school children, and those who are employed in the hospitality industry who are without an income because several resorts and some restaurants have closed for more than a month.
As of 1st October the people of this country will be faced with:
1. Increase in fuel tax
2. Increase in telecommunication tax from 10 to 12%. This time the net has been enlarged to capture uses of the internet, television and prepaid cell phones.
Increase in fuel cost has an instant knock on effect on the cost of goods and services in an economy. Despite the government claim in July that the tax initiatives introduced would not affect the cost of food items, at best was anaesthesia before they extract more money from an already highly taxed population. Food prices have increased as a result. There is no regards for the needs of the poor. Essential food supplement for the aged and those who have dietary challenges have to pay 36% duties on Ensure or similar liquid nutritional drinks. Further, it is this government’s declared policy that they will not have prices monitored and they will leave it to market forces to determine what merchants charge for goods.
As important as the internet is as a research tool for students at all levels, this government in an act of desperation has decided to place a tax on the internet use.
The actions of government have not only broken the pockets of the poor and those who are about to become poorer, but the journey through this economic waste land , has broken the spirits and will of many to continue to try. The future for some is uncertain and bleak and we believe that the spike in non communicable diseases and subsequent morbidity and mortality is directly related to the pressures of life that has taken many of us back to the 1950s: conditional access to health care, no power or water, no jobs, limited access to education for natives at all levels. On Providenciales there are hundreds of school aged children who cannot gain access to the class room because of overcrowding and the government’s inability to invest in school buildings, equipment and staff.
The government needs to roll out their plan and vision for this country and start to deliver for the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Increased taxation in the present hard times where there is no tangible social or economic benefit is not the way forward. If they cannot get the job done they should demit office and allow capable persons to govern this country and lead it in the right direction.
May God bless the Turks and Caicos Islands.