THE EDITOR: A few years ago I indicated to the Government that it is almost impossible, perhaps improbable, to collect property tax if it continued along its prescribed path.
I also suggested that if the purpose was to raise funds then it would be much simpler to just increase the already established property tax figure by a percentage consistent with the increase of prices in the economy.
After years of continuing with its exercise, the result is as I expected – not much progress.
There seems to be much uncertainty about the new initiative. The public notice sent out under section 29 of the Valuation of Land Act requiring all landowners to furnish a return form with the particulars of their property by November 30 has many confused.
This, it has been proffered, has nothing to do with property tax. Nonetheless, the exercise seems to cause unease among property owners.
If there is one area that shows up the inefficiency, ineptitude, and lack of vision among governments past and present it is the area of land management.
After years of attempting to manage ourselves, we are now in a position where most of our agricultural lands are abandoned, and squatters occupy almost every piece of premium state land, from the old train tracks to lands set aside for municipal use.
There are some worrying issues with the new valuation initiative. Among them are:
* The possibility of individuals giving false information.
* The possibility that the literate may claim lands that are not theirs while the illiterate landowner remains vulnerable to the manipulation of the greedy.
* The status of squatters in this exercise.
* The absence of proper documentation lost through various means including theft, fire, misplacement and damage may cause many to not register their property.
* The fear that by registering their property they would then be faced with an unbearable property tax.
* Property handed down through generations without proper documentation may remain unregistered.
The solution to our land issues is simple. The Government ought to employ every possible land surveyor to map out every parcel of land in TT.
This exercise may take a few years to complete but in the end every parcel ought to be categorised into property with legitimate title, title not confirmed, title under investigation, state lands, squatter property and abandoned property.
That must be the starting point for land management. Using the might of the State to force citizens to complete valuation returns is an exercise that shows up the lack of vision of a government that daily seems to be growing in its failure to efficiently manage the affairs of TT.