THE IMPLEMENTATION of the new TT Revenue Authority (TTRA) looks, increasingly, to be an issue that will be resolved at the next general election, going by the timeline of litigation that is unfolding.
This is both a good and a bad thing.
This week, it emerged the Government has, for a second time, deferred staffing of the authority by four months as an appeal lodged by the Public Services Association (PSA) in the Court of Appeal is heard.
That appeal seeks to overturn a ruling by the High Court which this month cleared the way for the Government to press ahead.
Earlier this year, public servants were given a deadline of July 31 to decide if they would be absorbed into the new entity or go elsewhere.
But Colm Imbert, the Minister of Finance, later exercised his discretion after careful consideration of all the factors involved and deferred implementation, setting a new deadline of November 30. However, it is understood the deadline is now February 29, 2024. “Operational reasons” have been cited as the cause of this latest extension, and, like the recent promise of back pay before Christmas, this may reflect the bureaucratic realities of government policy implementation.
The Government is under no legal obligation to hold its hand; the PSA twice failed to get the courts to grant injunctions against the State.
However, the prospect of this case being prolonged achieves the goal of transforming it into a matter for the electorate to decide.
No one can say for sure how long the Court of Appeal will take to hand down a ruling. The PSA’s case was filed in July 2022, and it took more than a year for the High Court to determine it.
If the union loses, it has already signalled it will go to the Privy Council. If the State loses, it may do the same. How long it will take the matter to be determined by the Judicial Committee, even if heard “expeditiously,” is not clear, but it could easily go into the last months of the Rowley administration.
On the one hand, it might be good for the Government to get clarity from the electorate.
On the other hand, this issue has been an “election issue” already. It played a role in the defeat of Patrick Manning and the rise of Kamla Persad-Bissessar in 2010. When the population rejected her in 2015, the Rowley administration went to work.
Eight years later, the TTRA remains in a quagmire.
A government should be free to implement its policies. At the same time, the requirements of democracy impose a duty on the State to respect the court and the will of the people.
The TTRA might be dead in the water.