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Sunday 15 September 2019
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[UPDATED] TT loses $2b in four years

PM: People in $20m houses not paying $1 in property tax

Conversation Dr Keith Rowley Thursday night at City Hall Knox Street Port of Spain 


PHOTO SUREASH CHOLAI
Conversation Dr Keith Rowley Thursday night at City Hall Knox Street Port of Spain PHOTO SUREASH CHOLAI

THE PRIME Minister said the country had lost $2 billion in four years from uncollected residential taxes.

"We are the only people in the world looking to government for every God-in-heaven thing and not paying a cent in residential tax," he declared.

He was responding to questions during a PNM public meeting, Conversations with the Political Leader, at City Hall, Port of Spain, on Thursday night.

He said the country has had a drop in revenue because the issue of property tax was tied up in court by a challenge by the Opposition.

Dr Rowley recalled that from the age of 17 he had been paying residential tax of $1.40 for his grandfather's property in Tobago.

He said the country has been losing $500 million annually in tax, which amounts to $2 billion in the past four years, "from a tax you hardly noticed." People were living in houses worth $20 million and wanted Government to fix roads and "kill every mosquito and every rat," he said, but were not paying a dollar in tax.

He recalled Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar promised to create 50,000 jobs if re-elected, but he questioned where the money to create these jobs would come from.

"This tax would have broken nobody's back."

He also said the country cannot have a system where it is losing 40 per cent of its taxes, and there was a need for a revenue authority (the proposed TT Revenue Authority) for efficient tax collection. He said whenever revenue is collected it must be ensured it is not wasted or stolen.

"If we do that, this country is going to be a very happy place."

A male audience member said he lived at Charford Court, Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, and there were leaks, no fire exits, and elderly people living on the top floors had to use the stairs because there was no elevator.

Recalling a fire in Trou Macaque (in December 2011, which claimed four lives) which resulted in deaths because there was no fire escape, Rowley said Charford Court needed some retrofitting.

Rowley also announced that very soon people would be driving and cameras would snap them breaking the light and they would receive a ticket in the mail. He said the country had spent about $85 million on CCTV cameras and Government planned to change the law to make camera evidence acceptable in court.

One female audience member said she had a degree in English but was unable to get a job, and asked the Prime Minister what he was doing about youth unemployment.

Rowley said the approach was to ensure there was an economy that was growing and had opportunities for young people.

But, he added, "Nobody is going to hire you just because you want the job. That is a make-work programme, and we already have a lot of that."

He asked if she had applied for a teaching job and she said she had.

Rowley said while people say there are "endless vacancies" in the teaching service, "somebody moving like molasses," and the antiquated systems and arrangements were having to deal with modern-day problems.

"It stands in the way of a lot of young people."

This story was originally published with the title "PM: People living in $20m houses, not paying $1 of residential tax" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.


THE PRIME Minister said the country has lost $2 billion in four years from uncollected residential taxes.

"We are the only people in the world looking to government for every God in heaven thing and not paying a cent in residential tax."

He was responding to questions during "Conversations with the Political Leader" PNM public meeting held at City Hall, Port of Spain on Thursday night.

He said the country has had a drop in revenue because the issue of property tax was tied up in court following a challenge by the Opposition. Dr Rowley recalled that from the age of 17 he had been paying residential tax of $1.40 for his grandfather's property in Tobago.

He said the country has been losing $500 million annually in tax which amounts to $2 billion in the past four years "from a tax you hardly noticed."

Rowley said there were people living in houses worth $20 million and wanted Government to fix roads and "kill every mosquito and every rat" but were not paying a dollar in tax.

He recalled Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar promised to create 50,000 jobs if re-elected but he questioned where the money to create these jobs would come from.

"This tax would have broken nobody's back."

He also said the country cannot have a system where it is losing 40 per cent of its taxes and there was a need for a revenue authority (the proposed TT Revenue Authority) for efficient tax collection. He said whenever revenue is collected it must ensure that it is not wasted or stolen.

"If we do that this country is going to be a very happy place."

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