January 23, 2018

Region 3 Chamber urges incentives for rice farmers

…calls for removal of VAT on education & utilities

Budget 2018 is expected to be presented in November this year and as Guyana is in the pre-budget season, agencies and groups would have been submitting their proposals for which areas the Government should invest money in.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan

Region Three Chamber of
Commerce and Industry
President Radesh Rameshwar

However, it turns out that the Region Three Chamber of Commerce and Industry was not consulted on submitting any budget proposals. According to the Chamber’s President, Radesh Rameshwar, this could be attributed to the Chamber’s fairly new status.
“Only of recent, we have resuscitated back this chamber,” he stated, in a recent interview with Guyana Times International. “Because it was defunct over a period of time, I am certain that next year they will (consult).”
While the Chamber did not submit a budget plan, Rameshwar did have some suggestions on what the Government should pay attention to in its budget. Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) has significant rice farmlands, but according to Rameshwar overall, business is slow.
“The Government can do a lot of things to help resuscitate business in Region Three and try to restore back confidence in some of the businesses here,” he said. “We’re asking for them to assist the farmers in Region Three.”
“If they can grant them some form of duty-free concessions for spares, for diesel, because the price for the paddy is not there. So these are things they can include in their budget to restore back some confidence into the farmers and businesses in Region Three, to boost their business.”
In the 2017 Mid-Year report, it had been reported that the local manufacturing sector recovered in the first half of 2017, growing by 9.9 per cent following a decline of 14.1 per cent in the corresponding period in 2016. It was said that this was mainly the result of expansion in the rice sector.
According to Finance Minister Winston Jordan in the report, rice production in the first half of 2017 was recorded at 349,867 tonnes. This is an increase of 31.6 per cent over production in the first half of 2016.
This noteworthy performance, he had said, was attributed to a rise in acreage sown in all regions, especially in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) where acreage sown rose by 30 per cent to 42,595 hectares.
Overall, the agriculture, fishing, and forestry sectors grew by 6.4 per cent in the first half of 2017, underpinned by the recovery in the rice industry and improved performance in the fishing industry.
It is important to note, however, that when compared to the first half of 2016, rice export earnings declined by US$11.1 million to US$77.2 million in the first half of 2017.
This, Jordan said, was caused by a decline in volume exported despite higher export prices. The Minister noted, however, that given high levels of production, exports are expected to grow during the second half of 2017, as millers reduce their inventories.
Rameshwar also touched on the Value Added Tax (VAT) the Government had imposed on private educators, as well as the VAT on water and electricity, in the 2017 budget.
These measures were not popular ones and had touched off a number of protests until assurances were given by the Alliance For Change (AFC), whose office was also picketed, that it would intercede to have the tax removed next year.
The parliamentary Opposition had submitted a motion to the Clerk of the National Assembly calling for the revocation of VAT on education. This came as parents protested the imposition of the tax.
The motion was moved by former Education Minister Priya Manickchand. In the motion, Manickchand called for the immediate revocation of the 14 per cent tax imposition on private education.
The particulars of the motion stated that the impact of the onerous budgetary measures has caused great consternation and anxiety for parents and students and affected the future of students’ rights to access education of their choice, inclusive of private education, as provided for in the Constitution.
“One of the things we would like (the Government to look at) is the situation with the VAT on education,” the business executive said. “We’re hoping that in 2018 it’s going to be removed completely. We’re asking the Government if they can continue to relax the VAT on electricity and water (for) the elders, the senior people.” (Jarryl Bryan)