BUSINESSMAN Joel Ramnath has said taxes paid by the business community affect the cost of products, which has resulted in many small businesses folding, even amid growth for some businesses.
In an interview with Newsday last Tuesday, Ramnath said the business community, which drives the economy, is experiencing an uphill battle.
"Government agencies don't make profit, so they don't contribute to economic growth, while businesses that do are being taxed as if being taxed to lift a country out of poverty."
Ramnath said businesses are currently paying 25 per cent in value-added tax (VAT).
"Every item imported requires payment of customs duty and VAT, (and) when it goes on the shelf, the customer also has to pay 12.5 per cent VAT on the already-taxed product. So basically, people's supermarket bills could be half the cost if we did not have to pay the government 50-55 per cent in taxes.
"Imagine, the government charges duty, and VAT on a tax.
"Most people don't know they are paying 50 per cent tax on goods, they think the supermarkets are making all the money. So there is duty tax, VAT, insurance tax and freight charges, after which the retailer has to mark up and add another tax."
Ramnath said most people end up having 30 per cent, on average, for use at their discretion after paying taxes.
"Every dollar you think you make, after paying all the taxes, you take home 30 per cent of what you think you are making.
"And the government has no idea how to stimulate the economy and the business community does, but the government is drying up businesses by taxing them aggressively."
He said he believes half the problem with the struggling economy has to do with politicians, and the other half the people.
"Politicians should be paid based on performance at the end of the year, like most people, and the people should educate themselves so they can make informed decisions when voting. Maybe then the government would see to the interest of the people and the country."
Ramnath who is the owner of Gran Couva Eco Lodge, said the government does not only fail to help boost the tourism sector, but rather contributes to challenges faced by stakeholders.
"The Minister of Tourism is my neighbour and he has shown no interest in how businesses like the lodge may attract eco-tourists. Even the roads – I had to repair the roads after his contractors caused damage to the roads. The government has no idea what tourism is, and they seem too embarrassed to ask for help."
Ramnath said he is concerned as various sectors are being depleted.
"We no longer have oil money and we have no other sectors that can help our economy grow.
"We can't have people who lack vision leading us. We work hard, and the government taxes us. Until we take our head out of the sand and hold them accountable, the country won't move forward."