With recent reports highlighting the luxurious vehicles which Parliamentarians have been enjoying with their tax exemptions, head of the Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), Gary Aboud, is now recommending that these public officials be given a “cap” on these exemptions.
And that they only be entitled to one new vehicle based on a reasonable lifespan.
The recommendation comes on the heels of another report, which revealed that UNC MP David Lee enjoyed a 1 million-plus tax exemption when he purchased a $2m Mercedes Benz.
The exemption was stated in a May 2019 letter from the Inland Revenue of the Finance Ministry to the Comptroller of Customs.
The FFOS stated that while Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar was in power, she too was asked to put a cap and refused.
The group said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has widened the poverty gap and yet it seems that the exclusive club of public officials have coined a new slogan of ‘make the poor pay’. Our “sensitive” PM should reconvene the Salary Review Commission.”
It added, “Instead of depriving the poor and hungry, public officers should only be entitled to one new vehicle based on a reasonable lifespan of the vehicle suggested at every eight years and instead should follow the advice of the 2013 Salary Review Commission and cap the vehicle tax exemption enjoyed by all public officials at $173,000.00’ or less, and that at every eight years.
“Ordinary citizens are being told to suffer in silence and that their strife is inevitable. Even the Finance Minister urging us to conserve foreign exchange, has imported three multi-million-dollar luxury vehicles within five years.
Noting the lifespan of a new vehicle is a minimum of five to 15 years, the FFOS said, “What reason does a single minister have to import three different vehicles in five years? Our Government and senior public officers should have a conscience and make some sacrifices to share the burden instead of taxing the life out of an already burdened middle class, in what appears to be an insensitive gluttony. ”
The FFOS was also very concerned about “the robust defence” which Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and his Parliamentary colleagues had mounted regarding their alleged abuse of motor vehicle tax exemptions.
“The point is that a country already broken by a five-month lockdown, complete removal of fuel subsidies, shortage of foreign exchange, collapse of oil/gas revenue, an expanding budgetary deficit and the looming threat of property tax, is being told these are trying times that necessitate ‘belt-tightening’ yet, in the same breath they refuse to part with millions upon millions of lavish, unnecessary perks.”