KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Projections by the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) regarding possible negative impact of property tax reform here are premature, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves this week.
Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace, on the heels of the International Monetary Fund Article IV consultation on the local economy, said that changing property tax from rental value to market value may seriously impact Vincentians, depending on the percentage used.
“Now, this (property tax reform) is a policy which was advocated by the NDP when Mr. Eustace was minister of finance,” Gonsalves said on radio Tuesday.
“It is taken a long period of time because there had to be long studies, there had to be all sorts of things done,” he further stated.
“Nobody … asked ‘what the rate is going to be, are we going to have exemptions for [houses under a certain value], are we going to have a moratorium on property taxes owed before, particularly interest and penalties. There is no nothing about it but yet it becomes a front page in their favourite newspaper. I mean, it is just wrong and bad,” Gonsalves said.
He said there were challenges resulting from the global financial crisis, the CLICO and British American saga regionally, and natural disasters here.
“We have all these challenges. Why are we trying to create unnecessary home-grown ones, whether it is the LIAT pilots, whether people are going to crime or whether the opposition is being not constructive and simply losing its way and using the mass media, including the Internet to just write and speak a lot of things which are ill-considered and which they know to be wrong. They must stop it,” said Gonsalves, who, as Minister of Finance, will present the Estimates on Tuesday.
Gonsalves, commenting on the IMF report, which Eustace had said would contain bitter medicine for the local economy, said that among the international body’s proposals which were policies that his government was already pursuing “but which they wrap up as if its their proposals.
“Secondly, they make suggestions, some of which we accept, we amend them and call them our own. Thirdly, another bundle of suggestions, which we tell them they are completely unacceptable and would be wrong for our economy and our society,” Gonsalves said.
“This report, you may use the word benign to describe it. There was nothing condemnatory of the government. On the contrary, it commended the government.”
He further said that Eustace was hyping his supporters about a possible damning report but when it was released, he first said that he had to study it before responding, and then later said the report was not a commendation of the government.
“And that has just gone in the air and nobody pays attention to that and repeatedly, that is what happens…” Gonsalves said.
“Everything that is good for this country, they seek to politicise it and if, in the implementation, there is something which goes awry, they hype it as though it is bad news to see if they can get some political advantage,” Gonsalves further stated.