GUYANESE stand to reap significant benefits when the 2017 National Budget is rolled out from January 1, 2017, but naysayers are focusing only on two of the menu of measures listed by Finance Minister Winston Jordan when he presented the budget under the theme, “Building a Diversified, Green Economy: Delivering the Good Life to All Guyanese.”
Speaking on the programme – “Budget in Focus” – aired recently on the National Communications Network (NCN), Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson and Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan said there is more to Budget 2017 than the 14 per cent Valued Added Tax (VAT) to be paid on water and electricity.
Though this 14 per cent will be felt only by consumers utilizing more on $10,000 in electricity on a monthly basis and more than $1,500 on water per month, these two measures are being misrepresented, the Government Ministers argued on the televised programme.
“A small contractor could right now, walk off the road, form a company, immediately get compliance and tender for a job from January 1, but there are no discussions on those things,” the Public Infrastructure Minister said, as he alluded to the measure that will pave the way for more small contractors to have greater access to government contracts.
Currently, bidders for contracts are required to have valid Income Tax and NIS compliance certificates. However, accessing these has proven difficult for small contractors in the procurement process. However, while these requirements will remain, Government is proposing to make it easier for potential bidders to access these documents through an automatic issuance of Temporary Income Tax and NIS Compliance Certificates.
Turning his attention to the 12 measures listed in support of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government’s Green Agenda and its quest to protect the environment, Minister Patterson said existing and even emerging companies can benefit from tax holidays, once operating in the field of renewable energy.
“You can set up a company tomorrow…produce your own electricity and have two years’ tax-free holiday. All the equipment is also duty-free, so it is quite unfortunate that we allowed the discussions to centre around these two things,” Minister Patterson said.
The Public Infrastructure Minister enjoyed the backing of Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, who opined that citizens ought to be more optimistic. “A lot of the measures are directed to allow for and enable a greater take-home pay for the ordinary person,” he said.
In Budget 2017, there is tremendous emphasis on education and health – “two critical areas that impact on the welfare and well-being of our people. If we look at the measures in total, and we are objective about the measures in this budget, there is much to be excited about,” Minister Bulkan said.
“Of course, we all have heard the naysayers out there seeking to condemn the budget. I hear the Leader of the Opposition refer to it as an ominous budget, but I believe that when the impacts resulting from the execution of the measures that are in the budget are felt, that verdict that we would hear from the average person would be a positive one,” Bulkan added.
In an effort to make his case, and that of the Government, the Minister of Communities emphasised that VAT will be applied only if persons consume more than $10,000 of electricity per month and more than $1,500 for water. For Government, this is a conservation mechanism being employed to prevent wastage.
“I do not think that there is any secret that there is a lot of waste of water out there, and whilst it is true that there is this popular opinion that water should be free because it is widely available, it is the delivery of that water, purified and treated, that there is a cost incurred,” the minister said.
Based on information coming out of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), of the 138,000 customers subscribing to the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), 105,000 residents and 4,800 businesses pay less than $10,000 per month for electricity. As a result, approximately 80 per cent of the consumers will not be affected by this new measure. Similarly, the Government is contending that a vast group of persons pay less than $1,500 per month for the supply of water from the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and as such, would not be made to pay VAT.