Customs (Amendment) Bill 2013 – Bill No. 2/20132519 22 May, 2013
Mr. Ramjattan: Thank you very much Mdm. Deputy Speaker. This Bill that is before us shows the holistic approach that ought to be taken by the Government. The repercussions of not having it passed ought to also be understood by them. In that context then, when a request is made for a deferral to whatever date it will be and they are pushing ahead with the Bill, it brings me to the point that they do not appreciate the necessity for consulting; the necessity for us understanding all the issues. Now they are pleading with us, “Please it has implications for the Treaty, rights and obligations under the Caricom regime. Also, they plead with us that indeed, we do have litigation at the CCJ level that might very well jeopardise this country.
I want to let this Parliament know that we appreciate those arguments. We also in the Alliance for Change (AFC) want to say that a tax is a tax. That is what is going to happen here. This Government only wants to tax. It taxed with this Bill here, in connection with extracting from every bottle or whatever it is package that comes into this country, a $10 tax. When now there are implications in relations to this tax because of course, other persons in Suriname and Trinidad having to pay this tariff for allowing their goods to enter Guyana, has an implication.
What this Government now wants to fast track is, we are now going to put in jeopardy our manufacturers by stating that, look, “Instead of the $10, we are now going to charge the people from outside $5 and our manufacturers will have to pay the other $5. That is not how I view an investment climate. I view it that if there is a certain percentage that we need for the environment, let us drop it to that and it will be across the board. It has to be low enough to also make accommodations for our businessmen. I spoke to a number of the businessmen and they are not in support of this Bill. They are not; none of them are in support of this Bill. They are saying that it is an additional tax.
This Government will come and say nothing about the sentiment of what the businessmen feel about this Bill, but they will go and say how the private sector feel about the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorism Bill though. They are going to play that over and over on the National Communications Network Inc. (NCN). They are not saying that none of the businessmen that manufacturers with the bottles and plastics and so on are against it. That is how they discriminate and they come now and say that we have to be discriminatory and we have to now do a couple of things that will make them still get that set of money. That is, it is going to be revenue neutral.
I want to ask the question and I notice it here: Government – Details of revenue estimates, page 7 of volume one of the Estimates that we so thoroughly went through the last couple of weeks; On Environmental Tax, this Government collects $1,100,000,000 almost every year. When we see what is happening in Georgetown, all that garbage and all that what is called environmental hazards. A little rain fell the other day and the whole city stinks. We have to start thinking holistically as to what it is that we are doing with this tax that we are collecting; that is also an important question. The business men that we spoke to, the Private Sector Commission, in the Chamber of Commerce, even other places, privately at cocktails asks where is that money going to Mr. Ramjattan? I have to say that I really do not know where it is going. The trouble is that we have that kind of quality argument now coming; “oh we are going to breach our obligations if we do not get this National Assembly to pass it.”We this National Assembly like in so many other things want explanations before it is going to pass. That is why we asked for a deferral. But, “No, let us go ahead with it and we are going to talk about it after.” Do you think we are going to talk about it after knowing how they behave? They are not going to talk to us, they are going to laugh and say, “Well it pass and the President will assent to I and then it becomes... Then they will go to the CCJ and say whatever it is.”
I want us to understand that this side of the House, the Alliance for Change side, will not be pressured by those arguments at all, bringing the entirety of the issue to the public of Guyana. Let the ordinary cane cutter know what this Bill means to them. Let me tell you what it means; when they put that $5 per bottle on the Guyana’s manufacturer, do you know what the businessmen told me? They said it is the consumers that will have to pay more. But they do not want to tell them that it is an implication, no they do not want to say that. The manufacturing class have all indicated to me that this is what will be the implications because they do not like to take losses, so this $5 a bottle will go down to the consumers. Consumers will have to pay more. Every little school child, that wants a little beverage or whatever for their nutrition, will have to pay more now.
The implication is not on NCN, who they have talking all kinds of other issues that are not important. Then they come here and they would say the AFC, yet again, blocked another beautiful piece of legislation.
The Alliance for Change in the context of what has happened and the fact that we have consulted the stakeholders here cannot support this. We do not feel too that this urgency of the argument about CCJ and commitments have been made with the cogency and the conviction that we think that it ought to be to change our minds. To that extent then, this is not going to get the support because as I said attacks are attacks and this is what this Government loves. To taxes its people or indirectly cause them to suffer from higher prices as a result of taxation. For the sake of the people out there we are not going to in any way support it; the consumers and the manufacturing class. Thank you very much. [Applause]
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