After several hours of debate on Friday, Government secured passage of the Property Tax (Amendment) Bill 2018 with the help of the independent senators.
However, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has given an undertaking to review aspects of the legislation amid concerns about categories of people whom, it was felt, should be exempt from paying the tax.
The minister, during the committee stage of the debate, said he would consider bringing an amendment before the end of the third session of the Parliament.
At the end of the division around 9 pm on Friday, all 16 government senators and independent senators, with the exception of Melissa Ramkissoon, voted for the legislation.
The six Opposition senators did not support the bill and there were no abstentions. The controversial bill, which seeks to amend the Property Tax Act, Chap 76:04, was passed in March in the House of Representatives.
Speaking to Sunday Newsday after Friday’s sitting, Opposition senator Wade Mark made no apologies for their decision to reject the bill.
“It is an offensive and draconian measure, which, as far as we are concerned, the Government has not thought through properly and there is absolutely no need for that kind of draconian imposition on a very weary and tired, financially and economically tired or fatigued population.”
He added: “Being administered all of these economic blows that Imbert has unleashed in the last 35 months, we feel that is totally unacceptable and we cannot support it.”
Mark accused the Government of not putting its house in order in collecting some $300 billion.
“Because the country is being robbed by the energy companies through what is being called transfer pricing because the Government is not doing its job.
“They don’t have the Ministry of Finance up to scratch with the type of technical personnel they are supposed to have there and you have poor people and the majority of ordinary people, including squatters you are now going to impose property tax on when the country cannot collect taxes.”
Mark recalled Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West saying billions of dollars in taxes were outstanding.
“Why don’t you go out and collect your tax?” he asked.
“Instead of that, you are going to impose that burden on the people.”