June 27, 2017

Archives for February 3, 2017

“It’s VAT everywhere” – Teixeira calls on Govt to repeal VAT changes, restore zero-rated items

“It’s VAT and VAT and VAT everywhere!” Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira exclaimed as she moved a motion in the National Assembly calling on Government to repeal the new Value Added Tax (VAT) regime, which comes into effect today (February 1).

Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma

Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma

Opposition Chief Gail Teixeira

Opposition Chief Gail Teixeira

The motion, which challenges Government’s decision to eliminate zero-rated VAT items and extend the list of VAT exempt items, had the full support of otherOpposition parliamentarians, some of whom contributed to the lengthy debate on the issue.
Teixeira highlighted how almost everything, even down to the dead, would be subjected to VAT, as she called on the Government to put an end to this unnecessary burden on the people of Guyana.
“Not even the dead can live in peace!” she remarked, noting that funeral services, which were previously zero-rated, would now attract VAT.
Teixeira outlined that services in the health sector, the cost for over-the-counter drugs, educational materials, religious books, sports gear, as well as local products, are now attracting 14 per cent VAT – making it even more challenging for the average man to rid himself and his family of poverty.
Teixeira also argued that VAT on basic items such as educational materials, health purchases and sports gear went against promises made by the Government to reduce school drop-outs, to solve the Maths problem facingstudents, to encourage youth from turning to crime and to foster a healthy nation.
She explained if basic items such as erasers and geometry sets now attracted VAT, then it becomes increasingly difficult for struggling families to keep their children in school.
On the other hand, Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma explained that Government’s new tax regime was to facilitate equal wealth distribution and the Private Sector was to be blamed for the increases passed on to the poor.
Sharma argued that the switch from zero-rated items to exempt should not come at a cost to consumers, but it was the businesses who were taking advantage of the change to exploit the spending public.
“In both cases, where it is zero-rated and exempted, there is no VAT to be put on that bill. You will not be seeing any VAT on that receipt…so this issue of persons paying VAT is a misnomer,” he explained.
He argued that businesses should not be charging consumers VAT if the items are exempt.

UK multibillion-dollar infrastructure grant to fund Linden-Lethem Road

The Public Infrastructure Ministry is gearing up to commence construction on the first phase of the Linden-Lethem Road Project, which will be funded by the Government of the United Kingdom through its UK Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF) programme.

Construction works are to commence this year on the Linden Lethem Road

Construction works are to commence this year on the Linden Lethem Road

In September 2015, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced a £300 million investment in vital new infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports tohelp drive economic growth and development across the Caribbean region. Guyana was named among nine Caribbean states to benefit from the grant.
According to the Public Infrastructure Ministry on Tuesday, construction for the first phase of the Linden-Lethem Road Project, which spans from Linden to Mabura, is expected to commence without a hitch as the Ministry will be working closely with the UK Government towards the success of the project.
The first phase of the project covers approximately 122.5 kilometres of road from Linden and the construction of a bridge across the Essequibo River at Kurupukari River. This phase is currently in the design stage.
As part of the collaboration with the UK Government, the Public Infrastructure Ministry said Government is seeking to engage a multi-discipline and transport sector-experienced consulting firm to assist in the preparation of a two-component capital project.
The components for this capital project include the upgrade of approximately 122.5 km of road between Linden and Mabura Hill (including drainage) and construction of a new single or dual lane fixed bridge across the Essequibo River at the Kurupukari ferry crossing, which is approximately 600 metres long.
While the proposed road upgrade applies only to one section of the Linden-Lethem road, the capital works on the remaining 331.5km of the laterite road will be undertaken through funding from other sources.
The remaining capital works would fall under additional phases and the Public Infrastructure Ministry disclosed that it has already engaged the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) on possible funding for the stretch of road between Mabura Hill and Lethem.
Earlier last week, Junior Public Infrastructure Minister Annette Ferguson met with officials from IsDB on the project and another team is slated to return to Guyana for further discussions.
The final cost of Phase One of the project is not yet known but will be determined by the detailed design study being funded by the UKCIF. Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Ministry is optimistic about the success of the project. According to Chief Planning and Transport Officer, Patrick Thompson, the Ministry and the UK Government are working closely together to ensure that the project progresses smoothly.
“We’ve received very favourable responses so far and we are feeling very optimistic about the progression of the first phase of this project,” Thompson noted, while adding that construction can commence in as soon as 18 months.
Last month, during the 2017 Budget presentation, Finance Minister Winston Jordan speaking about “infrastructure for integration”, noted that an infrastructure network that can support rapid economic development requires huge capital investments.”This is especially true of Guyana with its sparsely populated town and village centres scattered over its 214,970 square kilometres,” he posited.
To this end, Jordan noted that Government budgeted some G$37.2 billion to narrow the infrastructure deficit in the country, while at the same time pursuing other financing options, including Public-Private Partnerships (P3s), for the large-scale transformative projects.

Green’s contract with CH&PA will not be renewed due to age – Harmon

Minister of State Joseph Harmon told a post-cabinet press briefing on Thursday that the life of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA)board had been brought to end a new board will be appointed shortly and as part of Government’s plan to establish an age requirement for persons who sit on state boards, agencies and commissions, Hamilton Green will not be returned to the Board of Directors.

Hamilton Green

Hamilton Green

Green, the former Mayor of Georgetown who is over the age of 80was appointed as CH&PA Chairman last year.
“Government at the end of 2016 did a review of all boards and commission in this country which affect the life and livelihood of Guyanese people and considering age and the need for efficiency [as well as} the fact that there are younger competent persons. We believe that they ought to be given a chance. It is no disrespect and disregard to the work of these individuals [who held the posts] but we have to provide upward mobility within the system,’ Harmon explained.

Govt, PPP clash over salary increases for ministers

The “utterly disgraceful” salary increases given to Presidents and Ministers under the past Administration were not enough to satisfy the appetite of the coalition Government, which clandestinely awarded its Ministers an exorbitant 50 per cent salary just after several months in office.

CABINET
That was the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) response to the outcry by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo over the salary increases given to the Ministers andPresidents between the periods 1998 to 2014.
A publicity gimmick was executed by the coalition Government in the National Assembly on Monday when an A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) backbencher Jermaine Figueira was asked prepared questions to Finance Minister Winston Jordan in relation to salary increases under the PPP Administration.
In a subsequent statement, Nagamootoo said the increases which amounted to a total of 220.5 per cent for Ministers and 386.5 per cent for Presidents over 17 years were “unconscionable and utterly disgraceful”.
But the PPP pointed out that those accumulated increases were never done in any veiled or clandestine manner unlike what was done in the case of the coalition Government which tried to cover up their lavish and unjustifiable increases.
The Party noted that its increases over the years were always announced prior to their implementation and when they were implemented, the public was duly informed as soon as possible thereafter. The PPP recalled too there was never any public hue and cry about these increases.
“We note the Prime Minister seizing this opportunity for cheap publicity, as is his wont, and characteristically, without thinking, describing these increases as

Foreign exchange earnings unaffected by GuySuCo scale-down – Jordan

Finance Minister Winston Jordan does not believe the country’s foreign exchange earnings will be affected by the ongoing scale-back in the operations of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).

Finance Minister, Winston Jordon

Finance Minister, Winston Jordon

Speaking to media operatives on Friday, Jordan pointed out that GuySuCo’s operations have been scaled-back for some 18 months now, yet the foreign exchange earnings remain intact.
The Finance Minister was at the time being questioned on the uncertainties in the market regarding reports of a shortage of foreign currency in the country.
“GuySuCo operations has been scaled back now for the last 18 months or so and the market still functions properly, we maintain a healthy reserves and so on,” he stated.
Jordan explained that over the last 50 years, Guyana has had one leading commodity or the other that has “bailed it out”.
“It was bauxite at one time; for a short time it was sugar, and right now it’s gold. So something will step in essentially. And even with the lower earnings from sugar, rice and timber, we still have reserves that are higher today than at the end of 2015,” the Finance Minister stated.
He went on to say, however, that the foreign earnings from sugar could only be affected if one looked at sugar alone. He pointed out that Government’s plan was not to stop sugar production completely, but rather to diversify the industry. In this regard, he contended that the foreign revenue earnings will not be affected.
“Only if you look from sugar itself, but the changes we are looking at are a comprehensive package with diversification…” he explained.
There have been reports that there is a shortage of foreign currency in Guyana. The report had cited complaints from those in the business sector. This, however, has consistently been denied by Jordan and Central Bank Governor, Dr Gobind Ganga.
But at a recent public forum, the Finance Minister called on those involved in the practice of hoarding foreign currency – exporters, importers and cambios – to be responsible and heed the entreaties of the Government. He also had issued an ominous warning: failure to do so would result in the Government taking decisive action.
In fact, the Finance Minister disclosed that he has already begun engagements with the various financial institutions on the matter.“We have a number of actions being taken behind the scenes,” he stated.

Bandits snatch G$6M after trailing businesswoman from bank

An East Coast Demerara (ECD) couple were on Tuesday morning robbed of some G$6 million after bandits reportedly trailed the wife home from a city bank.

The Boodhoo's home where bandits carried off $6 Million after trailing the wife from a city bank

The Boodhoo’s home where bandits carried off $6 Million after trailing the wife from a city bank

The incident occurred around 11:45h at the couple’s Lot 31 Chimney Road, Chateau Margot, ECD home where they operate a vehicle upholstery shop. It wasreported that the armed men confronted the couple moments after the woman arrived home from the bank and escaped with the cash, along with other belongings that were in her handbag.
According to information reaching Guyana Times International, Indranie Boodhoo went to a city bank on Tuesday morning and withdrew the money. She then took a taxi home and upon arriving there, she went into the yard, but soon after, a silver Toyota Allion motor car bearing registration number HB 8059 pulled up in front of the house.
A male exited the front passenger seat and rushed into the yard, before confronting Boodhoo at gunpoint and demanding the bag. He was then joined by an armed accomplice, who came out of the driver seat.
Upon realising what was happening, the woman quickly threw her handbag, which contained the money, to her husband who was also standing in the yard at the time. However, the bandits managed to get to the man before he could have escaped and pointed the gun to his head. They took the bag away from the husband, Mulchand Boodhoo, and subsequently escaped in the motor car.
At the time of the robbery, one of the couple’s employees was in the yard, but was unable to aid the couple since the ordeal lasted less than five minutes. Luckily, no one was injured.
Meanwhile, the taxi driver has since been taken into Police custody and is assisting with investigations. It is unclear whether the taxi the woman used was known to her or not.
Nevertheless, when contacted about the robbery, C (East Coast Demerara) Division Commander Marlon Chapman told this newspaper that neither of the two bandits has been arrested.
However, the Commander reiterated the need for citizens to be cautious and take the necessary steps to protect themselves. In this case, the Commander posited that the woman should not have gone on her own to the bank, especially when it involved that large sum of cash.
“People need to be security conscious; we keep sounding the same alarm. You can’t trust people, because you don’t know what is really going on in their minds,” he pointed out.

State Audits ignored critical VAT-related issues, says Ram

Charted Account and Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram has stated that the State Audits which have been conducted over the last several months did not address some of the issues related to the Value Added Tax (VAT). He made these comments at the launch of the Second Edition of the Ram and McRae Accountingfirm 180 page handbook, at the Georgetown Club on Monday evening.
The book contains 12 chapters and cites 84 different tax cases, it also has detailed information on the local VAT Act, Excise Tax Act, and other tax regulations.
One of the concerns Ram highlighted, relates to the implantation of the VAT to mobile data plans. Another issue Ram stressed, that was not reportedly sought after in the audits, was that some companies charge consumers VAT without the requisite legal authority.
“We know of people who have charged Value Added Tax and are not even registered and that is criminal and the State needs to be more careful… the State Audit might be interested in this because the State Audits have largely ignored Value Added Tax,” Ram told the gathering.
Meanwhile, he also noted that based on an analysis, a nexus can be drawn that VAT, upon its introduction a decade ago, contributed to a spike in inflation.
“When VAT was introduced in the year of introduction, inflation doubled from 7.2 per cent to 14 per cent, so the chances of inflation which would affect interest rates, exchange rates, profitability. You can see the spike in 2007, when VAT was introduced,” the accountant noted. He indicated the importance of placing emphasis on VAT as it is one of the “major sources” of tax revenue in Guyana. He also pointed out that Budget 2017 has “understated” the revenue from VAT.
Highlighting some of the features of the G$30,000 handbook, Ram has explained that the book will show the differences between zero-rated, standard-rated and exempt supplies; VAT calculations for registered businesses and for inclusive pricing. Ram’s book will further explain how to establish and maintain a VAT account; in addition to a ‘Civil and Criminal Offences and Penalties’ Table.
Ram also told the gathering that his Anti-Money Laundering handbook will be available from March at a cost of G$25,000.

Linden’s Mayor forges twinning with US city

The Mayor of Guyana’s second most populous municipality, the town of Linden, will on Saturday February 4, apprise Lindeners in New York City of plans to twin Newark City, New Jersey with his town, as well as on his agenda to create jobs and redevelop the industrial town.

 

Hon. Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey

Hon. Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey

Hon. Carwyn Holland, Mayor of Linden, Guyana

Hon. Carwyn Holland, Mayor of Linden, Guyana

 

According to a statement issued by the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), Mayor Carwyn Holland is expected to be joined by his Newark counterpart, Guyana’s Consul General to New York, Mrs. Barbara Atherly and Brooklyn elected officials, at a town hall meeting on Saturday, February 4, 2017, in Brooklyn.
He will also meet with Newark City officials on Monday, February 6, to finalize twinning arrangements. Mayor Holland will be accompanied by Ms. Tandika Miller, CEO of the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN), a development fund which provides capital for business creation and expansion in Linden.
In a statement Wednesday, Mayor Holland said “Twinning Newark with Linden is consequential for Linden’s economic renaissance and development. This City to City partnership will foster new cultural and economic cooperation; create new prospects for business investments to sustain Linden’s economic viability, help create much needed jobs for young people and engender social transformation and prosperity for Lindeners. I’m excited about this historic prospect.”
During the 2016 celebration of Guyana’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, Newark Mayor, Ras Baraka, embraced a vision for twinning Newark with Linden, following representations from Mr. Bernard Rollins, Chairman of Newark’s Caribbean Commission, and other Guyanese Leaders in New Jersey. Mayor Baraka’s assent, harbingered negotiations for a City to City partnership to foster the mutual development interests of Newark and Linden. The ceremonial twinning is envisioned for February or March 2017.
Guyana’s second town other than its capital, Georgetown City, Linden is also the capital of Guyana’s Upper Demerara-Berbice Administrative region. The industrial, bauxite based town, which hugs the Demerara River, became a municipality in 1970, the same year Guyana became a Republic.
Newark, New Jersey’s largest population center, with a population of 278,000, is the 70th largest city in the US and the second largest in the New York metropolitan area. Newark is 8 miles from central Manhattan, New York City, and houses the seat of the Essex county government. Newark is also a main air, shipping and railway hub in the US. The City and its surrounding towns have a significant Caribbean population. Neighboring East Orange is home to the second largest Guyanese population in the US.
Linden, which has the highest unemployment rate in Guyana, experienced a painful economic recession when precipitous reductions in world market prices for bauxite triggered a significant contraction of the bauxite industry in the 1990s.
Holland, 32, who was elected in 2015 by pushing a pro-growth agenda, unveiled a plan to attract large-scale new business and manufacturing companies to generate employment for thousands of unemployed Lindeners. A highway from Brazil to Linden is under construction.

Guyanese immigrants join protests against President Trump’s immigration ban

Guyanese were among the thousands who joined the protests against President Donald Trump’s latest Executive Order barring immigrants from specified Islamic countries from entering the United States. The Order also allows for the detention of immigrants (including refugees) or refusal of entry (regardless of status) into the US even if they have valid visas or green cards.

guyanese
There were protests all over the US on Saturday and Sunday against the entrance ban and detention of Muslim immigrants from selected countries. The action has been condemned by prominent global figures and it is considered illegal in some quarters.
A judge in Brooklyn Federal High Court issued a temporary restraining order staying the ban till a hearing. Apparently, the President’s Executive Order canceled the visas of many who were already on flights en route to the US, and as such they could not have gotten clearance to enter the country. Thus, they were detained.
Protests erupted spontaneously on Saturday at JFK where immigrants were kept in detention and being sent back on flights to their countries of origin. If those being held in detention are incorrectly returned to their flights of origin or denied due process, the US government will have to pay their costs of return to the US as per past precedents.
The rally at JFK Terminal 4 started at noon with a handful of protesters and by evening it had hit thousands overcrowding the airport’s train and terminal. Hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters had to be turned away. Train service was halted at one time. But NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the restoration of train service saying the protesters must have their voices heard. Security was very tight inside the airport as the terminals became overcrowded.
Several Indo-Caribbeans joined the protests with one Guyana flag being waved high in the huge crowd; Dr. Dhanpaul Narine waved the flag. A large banner with a logo of SADHANA, a NGO comprising of Indo-Guyanese and South Asians, was held up by two Indo-Caribbean females at the rally condemning the targeting of Muslims by the Trump administration.
Immigration lawyers have been volunteering their service to represent those in detention. A Hispanic member of the New York City Council promised the council will join the fight until every detained immigrant is released.

Govt’s Cultural Advisor dodges cops

Government Advisor on Culture, Ruel Johnson, is wanted by the Police for questioning in relation to threats he made to “torch” the Sanata Complex, which houses most prominently, the Guyana Times newspaper, Television Guyana (TVG) and Radio Guyana Inc 89.5.

Government Advisor on Cultural, Ruel Johnson

Government Advisor on Cultural, Ruel Johnson

Commander of A Division (Georgetown-East Bank Demerara) Clifton Hicken told Guyana Times Internationalthat Police ranks visited Johnson’s office at the Education Ministry on Wednesday afternoon to haul him in for questioning, but he was not there. However, Johnson claimed to be in his office and on his Facebook page mocked “a senior Police Commander whose detectives apparently can’t find a fairly large man in a relatively small office.”
Also Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum told this newspaper on Wednesday that an investigation has been launched into the matter following a report filed with the Police by the Head of Security of the media group.
Blanhum explained that the security personnel will provide a statement on the incident after which other persons including Johnson will be questioned.
Johnson, who is also a Director of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL), which publishes the Chronicle, on Monday called for the torching of the Sanata Complex as a “united Guyanese protest”.
Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine has already pledged to seek an explanation from his advisor about his threats as they are “not reflective of the Government or its views”.
Asked to comment on the matter on Wednesday, President David Granger posited that the Education Minister already dealt with the Government advisor.
However, Johnson took to social media boasting that DrRoopnaraine did not engage him on the issue.
“I saw my boss last night after he came into office after a Cabinet meeting. He asked for his flash and I wished him happy birthday…,” he commented.
On Monday, the Cultural Policy Advisor posted the comments on his social media page – which also included a call for the destruction of the recently implemented but controversial parking meters. He stated: “Here’s my idea for a united Guyanese protest against impunity and tenderpreneurship – go break down all the parking meters and then proceed to torch the Sanata complex.”
Johnson explicitly made the connection between the Sanata Complex, QAII, its owner and the media group consisting of the Guyana Times newspaper, Television Guyana (TVG) and Radio Guyana Inc (89.5) which would all be torched.
The Guyana Press Association (GPA) also weighed in on the matter. GPA President Neil Marks said such a serious allegation should be reported, adding that the organisation will wait for the outcome of any probe stemming from the report.
In Chapter 8:01 of Guyana’s Criminal Law (Offences) Act, Title four, Section 35, the charge of ‘Attempt, incitement and threat’ applies to “Everyone who, in any case where no express provision is made by this Act, or by any other written law for the time being in force, for the punishment thereof, attempts to commit, or incites or attempts to incite any other person to commit any felony not punishable with imprisonment for seven years or more, or any misdemeanour, under this Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and liable to imprisonment for one year.”
In Section 36, the Act goes on to cite that in cases where the felony cited incurs imprisonment of seven years or more, the act of incitement carries imprisonment for two years.
According to the laws of Guyana, arson is an indictable offence usually carrying a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of five years.This is not the first time that Johnson has made discriminatory and inciting comments on social media about provoking violence. In 2016, Johnson was lambasted by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira for a similar outburst, and she called on Education Minister Roopnaraine to terminate Johnson’s contract.
According to Teixeira, Johnson does not have an understanding of the role his position has in shaping society and is reckless in his statements. She had pointed out that the Constitution of Guyana speaks to the issue of anti-discrimination and noted that a person who holds the responsibilities of culture must be sensitive to Guyana’s multicultural nature.
Meanwhile, only last year, East Bank Essequibo resident BibiSaforaSalim, who used social media to issue threatening and derogatory statements against President David Granger, was charged, placed on bail and then tried by the courts. Unlike that case, which was dismissed because there was no specific offence committed, according to the Magistrate, in this instance, incendiary threats to 5520 followers to “torch” specific premises presented a clear and present threat.
Similarly, TameshwarBeekham, a self-professed A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change supporter, was charged and fined after he issued death threats on social media against the life of former