Trinidad and Tobago is making the news because of the debate on its tax laws.

Trinidad and Tobago: Government and opposition go head-to-head over tax policy

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Trinidad and Tobago is making the news because of the debate on its tax laws. Prime Minister Keith Rowley and his incumbent government are engaged in a public tete-a-tete with Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the opposition.

In a recent statement, Kamla Persad-Bissessar spoke specifically of the seven percent online purchase tax, which in her eyes, is a burden on the small and medium-sized businesses of the nation. She believes that these businesses rely heavily on online purchases, and the tax pressures their already fragile finances.

She said, “The implementation of this tax has furthered the financial pressures on emerging entrepreneurs, existing SME’s and enterprising citizens while also being a contrary approach to dealing with the foreign exchange crisis.”

The elected government though, has a very different perspective, which takes into account the economy of the nation on the whole. In Prime Minister Keith Rowley‘s opinion, it is important to levy a reasonable tax rate on transactions to bring capital back into the economy. If every transaction is subsidized to unrealistic levels, its leaves the national economy with negligible capital to work with.

This capital, which is meant to allow government projects and programs, for the benefit of the people, is quite necessary. Without it, the government has very little to offer by way of monetary backing to essential projects which help the citizens of the nation prosper.

In the past, Prime Minister Rowley and Kamla Persad-Bissessar have butted heads quite often, on many matters. Prime Minster Rowley has often questioned the opposition, especially Kamla Persad-Bissessar, for their incendiary remarks which aim to ‘blow issues out of proportion’.

What has also irked the government, according to them, is the fact that the opposition’s remarks often show the nation of Trinidad and Tobago in a bad light. This is because, if the opposition questions the very fabric of a fairly elected government and subsequently the nation then it shines a bad light on Trinidad and Tobago on the whole.

Things also got heated when Kamla Persad-Bissessar wrote to CARICOM, accusing the now elected government under Prime Minister Rowley of ignoring laws and failing to observe the rights of the people.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley issued a statement against this letter, calling Kamla Persad-Bissessar “that idler” who wrote to the CARICOM secretariat saying that Trinidad and Tobago was in great difficulty, ignoring the judgement of the privy council which said there was no breach of the constitution.

“And they so upset about this dangerous thing that happened in the country that they want election observers to observe the local government election. Well, I want all yuh in Malabar and the rest of the country to help them observe the licking that they will get on election day,” the Prime Minister had said, with the utmost confidence in his voters.

He also made it a point to tell the people that his government was fighting for local government reform, something that the opposition has failed to offer in the past, according to him.

Prime Minister Rowley has also explained his decision to instate a property tax, which he says is used to fund operations for the reformation of local government bodies, something that was a part of his election campaign agenda.

“The PNM is saying that there is a purpose for this election and our purpose in this election coming up, whenever the day is called is to bring about change in local government…Win, lose or draw, our mission is to continue to improve the quality of life in this country by improving local government delivery, and an integral part of that is the revenue stream that local government will have,” the Prime Minister had said.