WPA joins AFC, PPP to call for revocation of VAT on Private Education

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The Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the party to which former Education Minister, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine is attached, has come forward to express its non-support for Value Added Tax (VAT) on Private Education.

VAT on Private Education was introduced in this year’s National Budget, at a time when WPA’s Executive Member, Dr. Roopnaraine was the Minister of Education.

WPA’s Executive Member, Dr. David Hinds

Dr. Roopnaraine was last Tuesday (June 13, 2017) moved to the Ministry of Public Service which was a Department under the Ministry of the Presidency.

At a Press Conference on Monday (June 19, 2017) where the party vowed to be more vocal about issues affecting various sections of society, another of its executive member, Dr. David Hinds said the WPA is opposed to the tax on education.

“We’re opposed to taxation on education. Our view is that Private Education has evolved in ways that was different from times gone by. In old days, it was the elites who send their children to private school, nowadays poor people, regular people are sending their children to private school because there is the perception that public education is not delivering to our children. Therefore, we find a lot of poor people making tremendous sacrifices to send their children to private school,” Dr. Hinds explained.

He added that as a party, “that is concerned about the conditions of the working class,” it does not feel that added taxes on Private Education is the way to go.

Asked about the party’s involvement in the Ministry over the past two years, given that its executive was at its helm, Dr. Hinds said: “the WPA as a party, did not have any voice in terms of the day to day workings of the Ministry, in terms of policy.” Over the past two months, Dr. Wazir Mohammed, WPA member, was assigned to the ministry and began to do some work in his personal capacity.

Additionally, concerning the performance of the Ministry, he admitted that the party has not been monitoring the Ministry.

However, he criticised the operators of Private Schools who are not paying their taxes.

“They’re operators of Private Schools in this country, who are making a lot of money, and who need to pay their taxes. So, we’re not defending the rich and powerful, our interest in this matter is a defence of the poor, that in so far as poor people are accessing Private Education, we feel…that an added burden on them,” he pointed out.

In March of this year, GRA Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia disclosed that there are 54 private schools registered as a business of which 14% are on records as a profit making organisation, while only 11 private schools are recognised by the Education Ministry.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan at the same Press Conference also raised the point that a number of such schools offer competitive fees ranging from $144,000 to $300,000 per annum depending on the grade and level of the school. He also noted that much of those schools could absorb the added tax.

Following its implementation of the Tax, the Ministries of Finance, Education and the Presidency were protested by parents and students calling for its revocation.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) which currently forms a part of Government, said it had listened to those who have been affected by this measure and having thoroughly reviewed all perspectives and extensively deliberated on the matter, the party accepts that tuition ought not to attract VAT. It also expressed the view that Budget 2017 had a significant deficit and that the measure ought to have benefitted from a wider consultation.

The People’s Progressive Party then attempted to take a motion to the National Assembly calling for the revocation of the tax. However, it was withdrawn by the Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland, on grounds which are irregular, spurious and ludicrous.

The VAT on Education measure is expected to be reviewed during the formulation of Budget 2018.

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