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“Doomsday has been spared” says Jordan regarding imposition of environmental tax on beverages

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The Customs Amendment Bill 2016 bill no 26 of 2016 which seeks to impose an environmental levy on imported beverages was passed in the National Assembly today ( Thursday January 5, 2017) following a majority vote from the Government’s side.

A charge of $10 per unit of every non-returnable container of beverage or water and the person who fails to pay the levy on summary conviction to a fine of $50,000 together with a sum twice as the levy payable all together.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan in whose name the bill was tabled said this move was prompted by Rudisa Beverages challenging the alleged discriminatory tax in the Caribbean Court of Justice, costing the Government $1B which had to be paid as compensation to that company.

According to the minister, there is no harm in Government attempting to protect the environment given the dangers posed by the indiscriminate disposal of plastic and other harmful materials. He maintained that there is a need to protect and preserve delicate eco systems.

Minister Jordan said Government is not taking money out of people’s pockets but merely imposing measures to ensure the responsible treatment of the environment.

However, Opposition MP, Anil Nandlall in his arguments said the tax, contrary to what is being touted by the Government would have a trickledown effect on the consumers who are already paying tax on water.

MP Larry Gill echoed similar sentiments noting that the levy is too burdensome on local manufacturers and takes away the competitive edge, making it harder for them to create employment. Not the good life Guyanese were promised, reasoned Gill.

Needkumar in supporting his colleagues’ arguments against the imposition of the environmental tax questioned if any consultations were held with stakeholders, who would be affected by the tax. His concern was that school children would now have to pay more on beverages both imported and locally made. Impact would be more than doubled for the common man, said Needkumar.

MP Juan Edghill called on Minister Jordan to prove to the people that the bill is not about the money, rather the environment and defer it in an effort to hold consultations. He reminded that while the PPP/C was in office, the combined opposition, now Government did not approve the said bill, which at that time was seeking to impose a $5 charge.

Edghill requested full disclosure of the amount of money being made currently and the expected income when the tax is applied.

According to Minister Jordan the levy that is being imposed now differs from the one that was imposed by the PPP/C pointing to a discriminatory clause which cost the current Government in the case of Rudisa Beverages. Jordan said the levy is applied across the board and is not designed for the Government to add funds to its coffers.

The minister said once the bottles are recycled the companies would be able to regain that cost.

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