Property tax, low income tax threshold, price increases - consumers are finding it hard Consumer Concerns

by Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
May 9, 2004

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December 17, 1990: A memorandum from a concerned consumer to the Guyana Consumers' Association is still relevant. The text follows:

"It is an unfair and unpardonable disregard for the welfare of the inhabitants of this country that legislation has been promulgated without the people having a say in regard to the imposition of a property tax on workers who by dint of personal sacrifice succeeded in acquiring property of one kind or another with funds on which income tax had already been paid... The Property Tax must be repealed."

Such was the reaction in 1990 to the Property Act. The Guyana Consumers' Association again and again called for the repeal of the act with no success. Consumers brand it "double taxation." Now it is added to the income tax as an additional burden on the sitting ducks, employed persons and businessmen.

Let us see what the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce had to say about the budget for the year 2004.

Stabroek News of April 14 carried a release from that chamber in which it noted that for many years it had been urging that the income tax threshold be moved to $36,000. The chamber pointed out that it had also argued that the business community and current taxpayers are overtaxed, and that those evading the tax net - traders, hucksters, minibus operators, etc, should be brought into it.

The chamber, according to the news item, pointed out that,

"The stagnation of the income tax threshold restricts consumer spending power and therefore limits the ability of Guyanese to offset the spiralling cost of living.

"Additionally there has been an increase in most commodity prices in Guyana and that is expected to escalate in coming months, especially in building materials. This again suppresses consumer spending power and puts an extra hardship on Guyanese."

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce did not note in their release that the increase in the price of gasoline to $550 a gallon will severely cut back on the spending power of the consumer. One does not know how the parents of schoolchildren will survive when the minibus fares are increased.

Anyone conversant with the state of the economy would know that consumers are now at their wits end to make two ends meet. Apart from the fact that there is little relief from income tax allowances, there is the hard fact that our country does not grant relief to the unemployed - and there are now hundreds of them - to the handicapped, to unemployed mothers, and to workers who are supporting elderly parents. The old age pension and social assistance can hardly provide bread for those who receive these handouts.

It is wishful thinking to say that poverty is reducing in Guyana. Read the report of Dr Clive Thomas on Poverty and the 1999 Survey of living conditions which was submitted to the United Nations Development Programme on August 14, 2000. On page 44 we can read:

"With the absolute poverty line drawn at a monthly per capita consumption of G$7,639, the data show that just over one-half of all income earners in Guyana earned less than G$7,500 per month. For the absolute and critical poor the figure is reported 90 and 89 per cent respectively. For the non-poor the reported figure is 29 per cent. For all Guyana it is 51 per cent."

We urge the powers that be to give some thought to these matters. Consumers are unable to meet their commitments and as prices continue to escalate and businesses continue to close their doors, the burden becomes too heavy to bear. In addition, to stay afloat, some business places are contemplating increasing the hours of work without increasing the pay packet.

We appeal to the powers that be to listen to the voices of consumers and ignore the advice from foreigners who do not fully know our living conditions.