Kamla: Country bankrupt, Government targets citizens for $$

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar during debate in the House of Representatives on Friday. PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT – OPM

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has claimed that government intends to impose a series of punitive measures against the population in an attempt to increase its revenue.

She made this claim during her contribution to debate on a motion in the House of Representatives on June 7 to approve a report by its Standing Finance Committee to supplement the 2023/2024 budget by $2.3 billion.

The committee approved this supplementation when it met at the Red House on June 3.

Persad-Bissessar was absent for that meeting.

Opposition MPs thumped their desks when she repeated the UNC’s claim that TT was bankrupt.

Persad-Bissessar also repeated the party’s claim that the PNM had created no new revenue stream during its last nine years in government.

She produced what she claimed to be a document from the Finance Ministry outlining proposals for government to increase revenue.

“There is a proposal. I am advised. I have a document and I am asking if this is true that the government intends to increase VAT (Value Added Tax).”

In response to inaudible comments from Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Persad-Bissessar said, “I have a document in my hand. Is the government…I will provide the document after the sitting. Just be careful.”

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George advised Imbert there were different avenues available to him to challenge what Persad-Bissessar was saying.

Persad-Bissessar claimed government planned to make certain items exempt from VAT and increase penalties and fines for people who are non-compliant with paying their income tax.

“Another proposal that the government has, and I have the document, they are planning to introduce presumptive taxation.”

She said, “Another way is to increase corporation tax and business levy.”

Persad-Bissessar insisted that all of this information was coming from “a document from the Ministry of Finance.”

She repeated, “I will provide the evidence for what I am saying.”

Persad-Bissessar accused Imbert of disturbing her while she was speaking.

She appealed to Annisette-George, “Tell him just to stop the rubbish please.”

Annisette-George urged all MPs to maintain the decorum of the House.

Persad-Bissessar said, “They (government) are planning to cut social programmes.”

She warned Government not to do anything to the Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP) as she referred to Imbert’s comments on June 3 at the Standing Finance Committee meeting about health care costs rising exponentially over the last 20 years.

“Leave CDAP alone. Find ways to touch it. Do not touch the CDAP.”

She warned that the UNC was prepared to go to court if government refused to account for any expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars.

Later in the sitting, the Prime Minister dismissed Persad-Bissessar’s claims that government would cut CDAP and it was a constitutional right for people to have it.

Dr Rowley said, “It is not in the Constitution. It is no entitlement to be fought in the courthouse.”

He estimated approximately $300 to $400 million is currently being spent with respect to CDAP.

Rowley said if circumstances do not permit this level of expenditure, CDAP could still be funded at levels of $200 or $250 million.

“What is wrong with that?”

Rowley said anyone who was attempting to misrepresent what Imbert said about health sector expenditure was engaging in “blatant nonsense.”

Persad-Bissessar disagreed with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) country report issued on June 5 which said the economy was at its strongest level in a decade.

She claimed the IMF was confused because TT’s prosperity began in 2014 while the UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition government was in power.