‘Dinner mint’ property tax not the solution

Finance Minister Colm Imbert - File photo
Finance Minister Colm Imbert - File photo

RUDY PAUL

IT IS CLEAR the issue of property tax is not going away any time soon. Two senior representatives of the Government tried to justify the tax.

They suggested three reasons. One was the need to generate revenue. Two was about equity and fairness. The third was some mumbo jumbo about democracy.

Their need to generate revenue is misleading. No amount of revenue seems to be able to satisfy government spending, a misnomer which should be accurately called government wastage.

With annual budgets greater than $50 billion, there is always the need to come midyear and borrow more. It’s akin to seeking to convince citizens that if only we pay some more taxes the ozone layer would repair itself.

More money in the Government’s coffers is not the solution. Some of us might even recall when “money was no problem.” And we went from “money being no problem” to being pressured to pay as much as the cost of “a dinner mint per day” to keep a callous and incompetent regime in office.

If the regime was so concerned with equity and fairness, perhaps they can explain why commercial property owners, like the Minister of Finance and the former AG, are exempt from paying taxes on their commercial buildings.

One would think equity would include taxes on commercial buildings, given the vast amount the Government spends in rent annually. One can only theorise as to why such buildings are exempt from property taxes.

When questioned about any issue, the PNM’s narrative is, “Well, it happens all over the world.” Many have been able to get away with that narrative, specifically as it relates to taxes and crime. Few people take the time to read.

Many simply acquire their information from the many social media forums, radio programmes, and a couple television shows. Given the wide acceptance of social media, few people take time to ascertain the accuracy of such narratives.

These narratives take on a life of their own, especially when the person making the statements carries some weight, which correlates to the office which he or she occupies.

When we speak of equity, are we to understand that people living in noted “hot spots” – dare I say most which are in PNM strongholds – will be paying their “dinner mint taxes?” One may recall under the late Patrick Manning regime, the same individual pushing the “dinner mint taxes” today was against it then.

I specifically recall him saying, “I know a lot of people for whom $100 is a lot of money. A lot are struggling to make ends meet.” It should be noted that this was when the country was in a much better financial position than it is today. The engine room, Petrotrin, was still jamming.

Citing property taxes in other parts of the world and using Singapore as an example, Colm Imbert failed to mention that the people of Singapore don’t have to play “dodge the pothole,” nor have a similar crime rate as TT.

Neither do they spend 20 working weeks (800 hours) annually stuck in traffic. With a population of six million, Singapore had six murders in 2021.

The largest contention that people like “G Elias of Cascade” et al, who evidently have no problem with the property tax, fail to recognize is not so much that we are being taxed more, but what we get in return.

As a society, we rank lowest in the world of trust. Among the least trusted people here are politicians. There is the running joke about PNM being the acronym for “Promises Never Materialise.”

We also know that sometimes a joke is just a joke. But a joke is not a joke when the stuff being joked about is serious. We have been promised “water for all” since 1960. We suffer not for a lack of resources, but for a lack of proper management. This is a common denominator found in every state institution.

I take issue when people in authority try to convince us that the sky is falling. If memory serves me right, I vaguely recall the Minister of Finance saying he expects to collect about $350 million in property tax.

Recent history will reveal Clico cost us $26 billion. This same history reminds me that some financial guru over at NGC lost over $600 million in a very short time there.

I didn’t even factor in the losses over at NIS, CAL, HDC, PTSC, the boats parked up in Chaguaramas, the collapsed seabridge, the abandoned housing projects, abandoned schools, rents paid for unoccupied buildings, cost overruns, etc.

Even this topic appeals to our tribal instincts. But the “dinner mint tax” would solve our problems, once and for all.

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"‘Dinner mint’ property tax not the solution"

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