Thursday, June 19, 2008

Private sector awaiting gov’t steps to legitimize Queens tax concessions -Calls for public apology to Yesu Persaud

Private sector awaiting gov’t steps to legitimize Queens tax concessions -Calls for public apology to Yesu Persaud
Stabroek News news item. Wednesday 18 June 2008

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) says it looks forward to the steps that the government will now take to give legal cover to the concessions announced for the investors in the Sanata Complex and it also urged that a public apology be made by President Bharrat Jagdeo to businessman Yesu Persaud.

In a statement yesterday on the controversy which has swirled around the Sanata deal, the PSC called on President Jagdeo to issue a public apology to Persaud for the hostile manner in which he responded to the latter’s proposal that others benefit from the same type of tax concessions granted to Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII).

The PSC also said that it was pleased to note that the Ministry of Finance has considered it necessary to publicly clarify the Government’s position on the privatisation of the Sanata Complex to QAII and the announcement that certain tax concessions were to be granted to the investors.

“It appears from the Ministry’s statement that the Government has now acknowledged that the decision to proceed with the privatisation of the Sanata Complex, including the granting of tax concessions, does not conform to the requirements of our existing tax laws.

“The Private Sector Com-mission considers it regrettable and unfortunate, therefore, that when Yesu Persaud, a highly respected and prominent member of the business community on the occasion of the official launching of the Guyana Times on 5 th June, proposed that other businesses should similarly benefit, His Excellency the President saw it fit to respond in a hostile manner.

“The Private Sector Commission believes that, in the circumstances, it would be appropriate for a public apology to be issued,” the statement said.

The PSC said that it looks forward with considerable interest to the steps which would now be taken by Government to further amend the tax laws in order to give legal expression to the intentions declared by Government in the Ministry’s statement with regard to the granting of tax concessions to investors.

The Ministry of Finance in a statement on Sunday said that the current Fiscal Enactments (Amendment) Act 2003, contains various inaccuracies and omissions in relation to both the sectors and regions identified.

This was in response to a Stabroek News article based on the findings of columnist Christopher Ram, who raised a number of issues about the concessions, mainly questioning the legality of the two QAII pioneering industries as identified by the President. Ram had stated that the two industries – pharmaceuticals and textile manufacturing – were not covered in the sectors eligible for tax holidays.

It said that it was Government’s intent when the Act was amended in 2003 to maintain the element of pioneer industries and that while the law sought to make this specific in terms of geography and sector, on both scores the law contains omissions and inaccuracies, and the lists articulated in the Act should have been illustrative and not exhaustive.

The statement said that additionally, the current wording in the law does not provide for tax holidays for infrastructure projects like the Berbice Bridge tax concessions which had to be provided for via special legislation, and the upcoming Amaila Falls Hydro project which would also very likely require concessions in a similar fashion to the Berbice Bridge.

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