N Touch
Tuesday 12 November 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Punitive nature of govt

THE EDITOR: Perhaps it is written somewhere but overlooked in the rush to post the new points system for drivers that was circulated lately. What, you may ask? The rewards for good driving.

Laws are usually made for good reasons. Traffic laws are to encourage people to drive safely and protect life. They were not made to punish people or to be a means for government to make money.

The points system therefore is there so that drivers threatened by the possibility of losing their driving privilege will be more cautious on the roads. Since drivers will make mistakes and run afoul of the law, many will get points on their permits.

In the US many states reduce the amount of accumulated points by a given number for each year of safe driving. In other words, if in a calendar year one did not gain any more points due to breaches in the law, their existing points are reduced.

Is there such an arrangement in the new TT law? If it was overlooked it is an area that must be addressed immediately.

In most US states it is also possible to reduce the number of points on one’s driver’s permit by taking a refresher course in safe driving or defensive driving. These measures are necessary as there are individuals who depend on driving for their living.

Taxi drivers, truck drivers, bus drivers and many others who use the roads daily are more likely to quickly accumulate points and thus a caring government ought to have a way to ensure that a law aimed to assist citizens is not punitive.

Our history is replete with examples of measures that on the face of it seem anti-citizen or in some cases punitive. Take for example value added tax (VAT). This is meant to augment the income of the Government to benefit taxpayers. To ensure these payments are made on time there are penalties for late payment.

If one pays more VAT than he or she receives he gets a refund. However, there are companies that are waiting for refunds for years while at the same time are penalised for late payments.

Why aren’t companies allowed to write off VAT payments against outstanding refunds? Why is the Government not paying interest on outstanding refunds? Why the one-sided structure where the citizen is penalised and the State gets off without any liability? Is that not a punitive structure?

Recently a friend went to pay a ticket but could not do so because no cashiers turned out to work. That person ran the risk of a penalty for non-payment even though it was the State at fault.

Payment of fees and fines can easily be made electronically, but for some unknown reason some government offices do not accept electronic payment, moreover they demand exact change.

In a nation where the State is unable to protect its citizens with much success, the demand for citizens to present large sums of cash to access government services cannot only be seen as punitive but it can be extremely dangerous and irresponsible.

The Democratic Party of TT promises a people-friendly government. It will be nice to see political parties contesting the next general election promise to end the apparent punitive measures that discourage business, penalise citizens and position the government as an uncaring parasitic entity.

Citizens should not have to pay for water that they do not get. They should not have to pay a road maintenance tax if the roads are not maintained. Payment to any and all government offices should be convenient and safe. Justice should be swift and fair.

Government should be the partner and friend of the people, not an elitist entity that imposes measures to hurt rather than help the citizenry.

STEVE ALVAREZ

political leader, DPTT

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