APNU/AFC boycotts debate on reversal of its draconian taxes on ordinary citizens
The Government on Tuesday went ahead with a raft of measures and legislative amendments in the National Assembly aimed at rolling back a number of tax and fee increases the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government implemented, creating a burden on taxpayers.
Among the measures the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Government took to the House were the Corporation Tax Amendment Bill 2020. The Bill seeks to remove the 25 per cent corporation tax on private education and health care.
Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, who moved the Bill, explained that the Government anticipated this measure would result in a number of benefits, from reducing costs for the ordinary man to attracting foreign investors.
“This measure is intended to attract other institutions of learning, reputable, well-accredited, to set up campuses in Guyana and offer those opportunities to Guyanese in the first instance. With this kind of an intervention, where we can encourage foreign investors to set up campuses here, it can also be a major source of foreign exchange.
“Because when those campuses are established in Guyana, students from around the world, because of the favourable rates in Guyana, would be able to make Guyana a destination of choice. Even now, we have quite a lot of foreign students attending our institutions,” he said, noting that this would present opportunities for students to spend not only on accommodations in Guyana but also goods and services.
Edghill cited the example of Grenada, which was able to attract students from all over the world owing to its combination of affordable, quality education and tourism. He noted that the monies from this made up a significant part of the country’s revenue.
The Minister further explained that the removal of corporate tax from private health care would lead to a reduction of costs for ordinary Guyanese. He also cited the potential of the measure to open up foreign investment opportunities.
“If the health care facility doesn’t have to pay the 25 per cent corporate tax, the person accessing an ultrasound or a CAT or have to do their blood test, the cost will eventually go down. People must also have choices again, whether they go to (public) hospital or private medical institutions.
“But this measure also creates an environment for investment into Guyana by world-class medical institutions, because this removal of the 25 per cent corporate tax is an incentive for them to come to Guyana,” he said, adding that this would also result in more world-class services becoming available to Guyana.
Other measures that the PPP/C pushed through the House include the Auctioneers Amendment; Income Tax Amendment; Value Added Tax (VAT) Amendment; the Hucksters Licensing and Control Amendment; and the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Amendment Bills.
These Bills either reduce licence fees or (as is the case with the Income Tax Amendment Bill) provide more fiscal space for potential homeowners by raising the ceiling for interest payment deductions on mortgages using a facility known as Mortgage Interest Relief (MIR).
MIR is a tax refund from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) that reduces the amount of interest paid by a homeowner on their mortgage. The initiative was first introduced in Guyana back in 2013.
When it was first introduced, a person had to be a first-time home owner and the loan could not have exceeded $15 million, in order to qualify for the relief measure. The amendment tabled by Edghill will see that ceiling raised to $30 million.
In his contribution to the sitting, Prime Minister, Brigadier (Retired) Mark Phillips lauded this measure and noted its potential to benefit particularly young people who have just become homeowners.
“Our government promised the burden of exorbitant taxes on our people will be reduced. This Bill, which will increase the mortgage interest relief ceiling for homeowners, will put hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of our people,” Phillips said.
“This will be beneficial especially to our young people who make up a large percentage of our new homeowners. This government believes our people should be able to live in dignity. Excessive taxation and no incentives do not provide the environment for economic growth and improved standard of living.”
Phillips also called all the PPP/C measures being passed in the National Assembly a triumph for the ordinary man. According to him, the measures are a reprieve from the onerous burdens placed on their backs by the former APNU/AFC Government, which conspicuously boycotted the day’s session.
“Today is the day of the small man and woman. This is the day that the PPP/C has made and will deliver on the promises made to the people of Guyana. We campaigned through Guyana and today is the day of reversal, reduction, regrouping, and repositioning the people for prosperity in Guyana,” Phillips informed the House, to thunderous pounding on the desks by his colleagues.
He cited as an example the reduction in the hucksters licence, which was previously $62,500 under the APNU/AFC Government. The PPP/C’s reductions now mean that the person who plies his trade on foot or cycle will now have to pay $2030, those using horse carts or other similar transport $7250 and those on motor vehicles $36,350.
According to Phillips, the former APNU/AFC Administration which had promised “the good life for all” thought that the increase in the fees by 92 per cent was a good move in promoting its version of what a good life was.
The Prime Minister noted that the reduction of the licence fees would now allow small businessmen and women engaged in trade “to do so much more and enjoy a better standard of living”.