‘Don’t tax the 7%’

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—Shuman appeals to govt. to make 7% increase tax-free

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Lennox Shuman has appealed to Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh to relieve public servants of the burden of paying taxes out of their mere seven percent increase.

In a letter to the minister, Shuman said: “One need not belabour a scholarly mind as yours on the importance of this initiative to families and I have every confidence that the strain on the public’s purse will be miniscule in comparison to the smiles, warmth and joy it will place in hearts and homes across the country for the holiday season”.

The seven percent increase for public servants was announced by Dr. Singh on November 18. The Minister said he was “happy” to announce the increase which will see a minimum wage worker taking home just $4,900 extra before it is taxed. Meanwhile, President Ali, is poised to receive $1.8M more on his Christmas salary, based on his $150,000 monthly increase. Furthermore, a government minister, earning $869,000, will now receive an increase of $60,830 to this or her monthly salary. The respective sums will be paid retroactive January of this year.

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Opposition Member of Parliament, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley had said that the “stark contradiction” highlights the major difference between the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). She pointed out that under the coalition government, senior public servants were awarded a lower percentage increase than junior public servants, thereby ensuring that the income gap would reduce overtime.

“The PPP’s single rate across-the-board increase is intended to widen the gap between those who have much and those who have little. In a time when world – over, emphasis is being placed on equity, the president chose to reward himself and Ministers with a 7% increase amounting to $150,000 tax free for himself, $120,000 for the AG and PM and 60,000 for other Ministers knowing very well that the public servants who work for minimum wage will be taking home an increase of $3528 Guyana dollars after tax (that cannot even buy a bottle of cooking gas),” the APNU+AFC Parliamentarian reasoned.

MP Sarabo-Halley said the 7% increase leaves much to be desired, particularly at a time when the food inflation rate is 16.9% and the overall inflation rate is 6.84 %. Public Servants, MP Sarabo-Halley said, deserve more than a meager 7%. She said Guyanese have every right to be disheartened given the private sector-centered measures, which were included in the last two budgets, with the intention of cushioning the impact of the current economic storm. “What this regime has done in two years is place billions of dollars back into the pockets of their friends and families while giving a pittance to the public service who toil day in and day out to keep the government running. The same public servants who this very PPP has to rely on for the development and growth they constantly boast is just around the corner for our country,” she said.

President Ali, in his address on Friday, said the 7% is intended to complement measures already implemented such as the 25,000 COVID-19 cash grant, but the Opposition MP said the reference to the one-off cash grants is weak attempt to justify inadequate increase.

“This 7% percent increase reveals the uncaring and unconcerned disposition of this PPP regime and shows just how deceitful they are in both word and deed. Most of all, it highlights the fact that the PPP is no good for Guyana,” the MP said. MP Sarabo-Halley said unlike the PPP/C Government, after just 18 months in office from July 1 2015 to January 1 2017, the APNU+AFC increased the minimum wage by over 50 percent, increased the income tax threshold by 20 percent, reduced the marginal income tax rate to 28 percent and removed the tax from employees’ contribution to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). In addition, old-age pension increased by 45 percent and public assistance by 27 percent.



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