You cannot re-impose tax on soap during a viral pandemic — Harmon 

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Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon has deemed “rash” and confusing the announcement of the re-imposition of 40 percent tax on soap by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) during a period when hand washing is necessary to protect against the coronavirus.

In a notice on May 25, 2021, the GRA announced that it would reinstate the Common External Tariff (CET) on various soaps including medicated soap; other soaps in the form of bars, cakes, moulded pieces or shapes; soaps for toilet use including medicated products; hand soap and other soaps as deemed necessary. “Soap imported under the above tariff headings will pay the CET rate of 40 percent with effect from June 1, 2021,” the GRA announced. It was noted that the move is in keeping with its obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and a decision of the 49th Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

The rates are applicable to imports from third countries into the Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as well as to goods traded among the Member States of the CARICOM which do not qualify for Community treatment.

In a subsequent statement, Harmon highlighted that it was the APNU+AFC Coalition that removed the CET on soaps after the pandemic hit last year. He said this was intended to increase the availability of soaps and reduce the prices to make them more affordable to ordinary people. However, with the re-imposition of 40 percent tax on soap, Harmon said that the health of Guyanese is now in a worse position. “We remain in the throes of a global pandemic and a central feature of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is for persons to regularly and thoroughly wash their hands with soap. The citizenry is more dependent on soap now than ever before…this re-imposition of 40 percent tax on soap by the installed PPP regime is unconscionable and will imperil the health of our people as many people will now not be able to afford to buy soap and others will have to economize and use soap less given the inevitable astronomical price increases which will follow,” he said.

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Furthermore, the opposition Leader pointed out that with this increase, Guyanese also have to grapple with “skyrocketing” price increases for basic food items such as rice, sugar, flour, oil, milk, meats and vegetables. “This PPP does not care about the health and safety of Guyanese nor do they care about taking every action to help curb the spread of COVID-19. In fact, their actions and policies are helping to spread COVID which is already out of control,” he added.

The Opposition Leader, on behalf of his political party, has therefore called for an explanation for the decision and for the immediate suspension of the 40 percent tax which it deemed unnecessary and inhumane at such a time.



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