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Opposition plans picket against ABST increase

The United Progressive Party (UPP) has announced plans to picket the House of Assembly during the budget debate scheduled for Friday morning. The proposed increase would elevate taxes on consumer goods and services to 17% of the purchase price, a decision that has sparked widespread public concern.

The protest is part of a broader series of actions organized by the opposition, aimed at highlighting their discontent with the tax hike, especially given the current global inflationary pressures that have already strained the cost of living for many citizens.

A town hall meeting hosted by the UPP at the UWI Five Islands campus on Thursday night provided a platform for citizens to voice their concerns and discuss potential alternatives to the proposed tax increase.

“The problem with this administration is not revenue but the management of the resources and we should call on them to account for the way they have been spending their money, ” declared  retired lecturer Dr. George Daniel, who presented as a panelist for the second time.

Businessman Winston Henry attempted to explain, like many others before him, that ABST was a compounded tax placed on goods because other taxes would first have to be placed on an item, before ABST is applied at the final point of sale. “The increase has not been applied as yet and cost at the supermarket has already increased so you can expect what is going to happen after,” he said. 

Prime Minister Browne sought to allay concerns by assuring that zero-rated products like flour would not be subjected to the proposed tax increase. However, critics argue that the impact on other essential goods and services may still significantly affect the general population.

The first town hall meeting held at Glanvilles Community Centre last Thursday identified several issues, including excessive concessions, a lack of compliance in tax collections, and insufficient accountability, as factors contributing to the decline in state revenue.

Despite the government’s commitment in the 2023 budget to crack down on tax evasion, Prime Minister Browne announced that, during the first three quarters of the year, the government had waived $20 million in duty on imported vehicles, raising questions about the consistency of the government’s fiscal policies.

The government has said it would consider implementing the tax in a phased approach. Further details are expected to be announced tomorrow during the budget debate.

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