Remove all taxes on computers, laptops and tables – including online taxes – to make buying digital devices more affordable to parents for their children to learn virtually, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar urged Government on Friday. She also called for equal internet access to all students.
In a statement, Persad-Bissessar said since the covid19 pandemic has moved classrooms to online, and with 65,000 students in need of devices, Government should immediately remove all taxes, as well as VAT, on purchases.
"In light of the fact that the previous Rowley Government scrapped the laptop programme, and failed to put anything in place to give students access to technology, measures should immediately be implemented to ease the burden on parents and guardians who now have to purchase devices to facilitate online learning," said Persad-Bissessar.
"In this regard, I call for the immediate removal of all taxes on computers, laptops, tablets, and related equipment in order to make it easier for parents and guardians to purchase laptops and other IT devices for their children to aid in their learning."
Persad-Bissessar noted that Government introduced taxes on online purchases in 2016 "in spite of public disapproval".
Internet access also remained a challenge for many children, she said, again criticising the PNM administration for its policies.
"In 2015 the PNM promised to implement nationwide Wi-Fi if elected. The PNM promised again in 2020 but we are yet to see any fruition to this promise.
"The time to implement measures to increase Internet access is now, as it has become critical to students’ ability to participate in the new normal of online learning. No child should be left behind," she said.
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly made an appeal to the corporate sector to help provide laptops and related devices to ensure 65,000 students have access to online learning. Distribution began at ECCE and special-education schools this week, the ministry said on Thursday.
In 2019, state-owned TSTT launched a free Wi-Fi service in Port of Spain with plans to expand the service around the country. There has been no update on the initiative, which was launched under former public utilities minister Robert Le Hunte.