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Finance Bill just a way for Govt to earn $

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UNC chairman Davendranath Tancoo.  -
UNC chairman Davendranath Tancoo. –

OPPOSITION MP for Oropouche West and shadow finance minister Davendranath Tancoo on Friday said the government was using the proposed amendments to the Finance Bill as a revenue-generating venture.

Speaking during the debate on the bill which proposes to double the fees associated with the granting of firearms users licenses (FULs), Tancoo said the sky-rocketing of requests for FULs was as a result of the government’s failure to secure its citizens.

The proposal, which also addresses property tax and amnesty for VAT and income tax returns, will create more pressure for the people, Tancoo said.

He asked what is the purpose of doubling the fees given that FULs are for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and others. He said rather than increasing fees, the government should be focused on modernizing the system to make it electronically available to both the individual and authorities as, currently, someone with an FUL who commits a crime can renew their license as the renewal does not demand a criminal records.

“In recent times, I am advised by several police officers across the country that there has been an increase in the number of applications coming to them from the firearms unit. That is because of the uncontrolled increase in crime caused by the government’s incompetence and lack of focus in protecting citizen.”

He added that members of the praedial larceny squad face criminals better armed and fishermen who face nefarious elements without protection. Criminality, he said, is allowed to run rampant and the increase in fees must be looked at in that context as there is a greater need for people to protect themselves as citizens have no confidence in the government.

“Those are the people that are being told that they need to be paying twice as much. The government’s priority is misdirecting when what they are supposed to be doing is protecting the citizens. If they focus on providing the police service with the type of support that is needed, then we will not be in a situation where citizens are so petrified that they are desperate to get firearms.”

He also advised the public to write to Finance Minister Colm Imbert and ask for a “bligh” since Imbert, he claimed, responds to people who write to him, in an effort to delay the implementation of the property tax.

Regarding pepper spray, which was passed in June last year for possession but needed legislation for someone to import and apply for a license to carry it, Tancoo said if it took 15 months just to produce legislation on that, it will take longer before someone can legally import and possess pepper spray. He said the legislation is needed to protect women and girls and called on the women in the government to hasten the passage of the legislation to have pepper spray available.

Tancoo addressed tax amnesty saying doing that is endorsing tax evasion and effectively weakening the enforcement unit of the Board of Inland Revenue. He said when amnesties are given it tells the people that they could avoid paying taxes. He said it is the same for VAT amnesties, describing the amnesties as “tying the hand behind their backs” of the enforcement offices of the tax collection agencies which sends mixed signals.