It is silly season, elections’ gimmicks abound. While APNU+AFC are at it, they should remove the 14% VAT on water and electricity now.
Quietly this week, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) instructed operators of hinterland air flights to discontinue 14% VAT. Deceitfully, the GRA can similarly administratively reintroduce it anytime.
When APNU/AFC introduced 14% VAT on domestic air flights as one of the new tax measures in Budget 2017, the measure was vigorously opposed by citizens who live in hinterland communities, and critics warned that development of the hinterland would be impeded.
The President, Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and APNU/AFC totally ignored the Opposition PPP and all those who warned that the 14% VAT on domestic air travels was a punitive, regressive tax. APNU/AFC argued the 14% VAT on domestic air travel was a punishment of greedy operators benefiting from high profits. They ignored the fact that mostly ordinary citizens were the ones who paid the 14% VAT, not the operators. They did not care how angry ordinary hinterland citizens were, hoping by 2020 people would have forgotten.
Suddenly, APNU/AFC is repositioning itself on a number of unpopular policies and actions it introduced since 2015. When 14% VAT was introduced for the first time on domestic flights in 2017, there was robust opposition. Those who operated domestic flights argued that the 14% VAT would increase cost for domestic air travel and create hardships for ordinary citizens who depend on air travel for access into and out of the hinterland. Not only were people who lived and worked in hinterland communities affected, but the 14% VAT for domestic air travel meant that business and development in hinterland communities faced further impediments. The arguments against the 14% VAT on domestic air travel met with a stern defiance by APNU/AFC.
As pressure mounts for APNU+AFC to hold elections which were due since March 21st, APNU+AFC is desperately trying to remake itself into a political machinery which cares for people living, working and doing business in hinterland communities.
Withdrawal of the 14% VAT for hinterland air travel is one of the reimaging tactics, as APNU/AFC tries to persuade people in the hinterland that it has served them well. It wants credit for withdrawing the tax; conveniently, hypocritically, dishonestly ignoring it was APNU+AFC which introduced the 14% VAT on domestic air travel in the first place.
APNU+AFC did so in Budget 2017, which was passed in Parliament in December 2016, after being sternly opposed by the Opposition PPP, air travel operators, the Private Sector Commission, and the citizens in general; especially those who lived and worked in hinterland communities. Today, as APNU+AFC shows up in elections mode in hinterland communities, it presents itself as the political party that terminated the 14% VAT on domestic air travel, not the party that is responsible for its presence in the first place. This is a deceitful, dishonest and wicked political ploy.
But people’s memory is not as short as APNU+AFC is hopeful for. People know APNU+AFC ignored their concerns and punished them for living and wanting to work and do business in hinterland communities.
It was APNU+AFC that had introduced, similarly, 14% VAT on education and on water and electricity bills. It was a concerted effort nationally to shame it for punishing people with unreasonable taxation measures that forced APNU+AFC in withdrawing the 14% VAT on education in Budget 2018. But to this day, the 14% VAT continues on water and electricity. Today, these charlatans shamelessly and barefacedly parade themselves throughout the country, taking credit for withdrawing the 14% VAT on education, totally ignoring it was them that introduced it in the first place.
Thankfully, it did not take national public protests to shame them into withdrawing the 14% VAT on hinterland air travel, but they did not do it out of any sympathy for people. They did not do it because the removal of the 14% VAT on domestic air travel would make life easier for people living and working in the hinterland. APNU+AFC did not remove the 14% VAT on hinterland air travels because it would facilitate development in hinterland communities, they did it because they desperately need the support of people living and working in the hinterland in the upcoming elections.
The modus operandi for APNU+AFC is to create mayhem, and then pretend they are “knights in shining armour”, taking credit for undoing evil that they themselves are responsible for. They insult the intelligence of people.
No amount of skullduggery and dishonesty will help APNU+AFC as they face the reckoning of the people. But while they are at it with election gimmicks, they should also now remove the 14% VAT on water and electricity.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy
August 5, 2019