PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, January 11, 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• It is clear that the Jagdeo Administration intends to use VAT to obtain a windfall in revenue, while imposing severe tax burdens on the ordinary man;
• It is our view that the Health Bill is so flawed that it must be withdrawn and rewritten before being returned to the Parliament;
• The PNCR congratulates the religious bodies on their positive stand on the issue of granting of casino licenses and will continue its own action to prevent this obnoxious legislation from becoming part of the laws of Guyana;
• It is time to shut the country down for a day or two so that the Government of Guyana can understand that the people of Guyana are ready to protect and preserve their rights.

The arrogance of the Jagdeo Administration and its contempt for the people of Guyana are now being made more manifest as they boldly and unashamedly continue to impoverish the people of Guyana through the uncaring implementation of the Valued Added Tax (VAT). The hypocrisy of the promised inclusive approach to governance is also evident by among other things:

• the mad rush to pass the Casino Gambling Legislation without any consultation with stakeholders;
• the introduction of a Communist styled Health Bill aimed at empowering the Health Minister and through him the PPP/C to trample on the rights of Health Practitioners and to control absolutely health services; and
• the recent order by the Minister of Finance approving increases in salary and allowances for Members of Parliament with a penalty proviso for any MP who attempts to disagree.

The people of Guyana should by now come to the conclusion that unless they stand-up firmly in defence of their rights the present Government would continue to trample upon them.

DECEPTION ON THE INTRODUCTION OF VAT EXPOSED

The experience of businessmen and consumers alike over the last week with the draconian increase in the cost of living through VAT have laid bare the claims by President Jagdeo that VAT would result in a reduction of the cost of living for Guyanese.

The claims by the Government that VAT would result in a revenue neutral tax have been exposed. The Hon. Minister of Finance and his Revenue Authority Head, rather than seeking appropriate remedies to the many serious flaws which have been exposed in this early implementation process, have proceeded to insult, threaten and harass businessmen. They continue to use the State media to pedal half-truths and misleading information to the Guyanese people. Mr. Sattaur should apologise not only to the business community but all Guyanese.

It does not take a genius to know that the imposition of a sixteen percent (16%) tax on a value added commodity or service when only one ingredient of that service was subject to consumption tax, will result in an increased cost of the final product to the consumer. Consumers are therefore faced with the increased costs of almost every item essential to their existence. Businessmen with stocks accumulated before December 2006 are also left to determine how to recoup their expenses when the GRA has only made provisions for stocks acquired in December 2006.

The paltry five percent (5%) increase in salary paid to public workers is therefore inadequate to cushion the effects of the increased cost of living. How then would workers survive in these circumstances?

Public opinion, Parliamentary debates and constructive suggestions have failed to produce any result so far. The PPP/C has demonstrated over its long history, as far back as the Kaldor Budget of 1963, that it understands only one language, the language of public protest. If therefore, there is to be any resolution, businessmen, workers and their trade unions as well as all other stakeholders must be prepared to act.

It is clear that the Jagdeo Administration intends to use VAT to obtain a windfall in revenue, while imposing severe tax burdens on the ordinary man.

THE HEALTH BILL

The Health Facilities Licensing Bill (Bill No. 29 of 2006) is yet another clear example of the PPP/C’s intention to control and manipulate health services nationally. The provisions of the Bill apply to health facilities, including health services, places or persons and indicate that no health facility shall be operated in Guyana, except under a license issued by the Minister. Existing health practitioners and persons will not be spared since within one year of the coming into being of this Act they too will have to apply for and obtain a license from the Minister. The Bill empowers the Minister by order to close any such facility.

Persons or companies wishing to open a new health facility, or continue an existing one, will be mandated to submit minute details of their plans, including those which have nothing to do with health standards. The Minister may also take over and operate any health facility on the flimsiest of excuses and deprive the owners of their properties after paying nominal rental for the property.

The Minister would also be empowered to appoint persons called “Assessors” who will be immune from civil action, who will have power to encroach upon any health facility and remove any document, information or material, including the private records of patients without notice. It is clear that the intention of this Bill could not be to improve the health services but a crude attempt to insert political control over the health sector which in some instances encroaches on the existing authority of the Guyana Medical Council.

It is also evident that the Bill attempts to encroach on the rights to property as guaranteed by the constitution. It is surprising that such a major piece of legislation was not subject of any consultation with the Medical Associations and bodies in Guyana.

The PNCR will vigorously oppose this unconstitutional piece of legislation. It is our view that the Bill is so flawed that it must be withdrawn and rewritten before being returned to the Parliament. Again the PNCR is convinced that unless the health practitioners and other professionals stand up for their rights the PPP/C will shamelessly proceed upon the direction they have embarked.

THE PEOPLE MUST ACT NOW TO PREVENT GANSTERISM BECOMING THE NORM IN GUYANA

Since February 22, 2006, the PNCR had revealed that the Jagdeo Administration had already secretly committed itself to grant casino license to a number of hoteliers.

In that Statement the PNCR emphasized, “… the ungodly PPP/C government was bend on criminalising the economy and making the entire country dependent on shady money and people.” The PNCR at that time offered itself ready to engage in full consultations with the Government and all stakeholders. Despite statements by the PPP/C Administration to the country no consultations on this issue have been held with key stakeholders. The promised consultations with the religious community have failed to materialize and to day the PPP/C proposes to lay in Parliament the proposed gambling legislation. The dilatorous effects of this development appear not to be of any concern to the Government, notwithstanding their inability to deal with the present crime and security situation in the country.

The Government also appears to be oblivious of the views expressed by the by the religious community and has treated them with grave disrespect. The religious communities, however, appear to understand the reality of the present Administration and have already begun to take their own action. The PNCR congratulates the religious bodies on their positive stand on this issue and will continue its own action to prevent this obnoxious legislation from becoming part of the laws of Guyana.

Guyanese from all walks of life must now support the churches in their efforts and be prepared to do what is necessary to keep the Jagdeo Administration in check.

ONLY UNITED ACTION CAN SAVE GUYANA AT THIS TIME

It is clear from the above that all Guyanese are at risk due to the excesses of the present administration. Only united action can stop the present Administration. It is time for people of Guyana to say “enough is enough.” It is time to shut the country down for a day or two so that the Government of Guyana can understand that the people of Guyana are ready to protect and preserve their rights.

The PNCR has sought every opportunity to explain to the Jagdeo Administration the reality of conditions in Guyana. By now it should be evident to all that the Government has refused to listen. It is therefore time to take the struggle to another level. We therefore call on all Guyanese to raise their voices and demonstrate in tangible form their resentment of the activities of this Administration. The PNCR will inform the public of its own programme of action and look forward to full support.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday, January 11, 2007