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David Abdulah

Derek Achong

Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah has called on the Government to review its move to implement property tax for home-owners.

Speaking at a virtual press conference yesterday, Abdulah claimed that while his organisation is not generally opposed to property tax, the Government should focus on collecting such taxes from commercial property owners before home-owners.

Abdulah said: “Home-owners are the wrong place to start. Don’t start with the ordinary men and women who are struggling to make ends meet. Don’t put the burden on those who are least capable to carry it.”

He suggested that the Government should start with the owners of multi-story buildings, who rent them to the Government to house ministries and State agencies.

He suggested that a moratorium be put in place for homeowners who lost their jobs during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and for pensioners, who retired several years ago and have not received an increase in pension.

He also stated that the current process is confusing and intimidating to homeowners.

“It’s a bureaucrat’s heaven and a home-owner’s hell to fill out…The problem is the form is far too onerous and complicated,” Abdulah said.

Abdulah also took aim at the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA) Bill, which seeks to replace the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) and Customs and Excise Division with a new Revenue Authority.

The bill was passed in the Senate on Friday and is to be debated by the House of Representatives.

Abdulah said the MSJ has issues with how executive officials of the proposed authority would be appointed.

He noted that the Director-General is to be appointed by the Ministry of Finance, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the authority would make other appointments leading to confusion.

Abdulah said that the role of the minister would possibly lead to allegations of political interference.

“That is not going to work to form a cohesive organisational structure,” Abdulah said, as he suggested that both existing organisations could have been strengthened and improved instead of being replaced.

Abdulah also called on the Government and the Opposition to consider reviewing the constitutional arrangements for the appointment of a Police Commissioner.

He claimed that three weeks ago, the MSJ raised issues of apparent political involvement in the process.

“We also warned that the situation was leading to campaigning or lobbying. That is not a healthy thing,” he said, as he noted that the current situation would affect the morale of junior officers.

He said until the issues are resolved by the Police Service Commission or by the courts, a senior police officer should be appointed to act in the position.