In congratulating you on the quality of your weekly publication, I wish to draw reference to two contributions in the issue of August 2012—Week Two that I consider worthy of broad national debate. These were the comments on tax reform covered in an interview with Allyson West of PricewaterhouseCoopers and the recommendations provided by Ian Narine, in his regular commentary, on the subject of tax collection. Both of these respected professionals raised topics that are fundamental to any serious analysis of our country’s fiscal condition and essential, as West asserts, to a strategic approach to resource allocation and sectoral incentivisation. Far too frequently, in fact invariably, discussions on fiscal issues are generated by the latest news, eg diesel-subsidy fraud, land and building tax political point-scoring, and hence on a piecemeal basis.
A comprehensive examination of all tax regimes, direct and indirect, and the efficiencies or inefficiencies, as the case maybe, of legislated incentives, exemptions and the like is not, to the best of my knowledge, performed. The private-sector business organisations are as guilty as is the Government of this neglect of strategic fiscal overview and planning. But this was not always the case. During the 80s and 90s and, if my memory serves me right, up to the accession to power of the NAR government, the appointment of multidisciplinary tax performance or fiscal review committees that were representative of all sectors of our society and which reported to the Ministry of Finance was a fairly regular feature of economic planning. This practice was followed both in times of plenty and during, like now, guava seasons.
I presume to use the pages of the Business Guardian to address to our newly appointed Minister of Finance my plea that he see fit, after the dust of Budget 2013 has settled, to establish such a committee. Medium-term plans to rid us of the prevailing economic malaise demand such an intervention. I earnestly hope that the trade union movement, NGOs and academia join this voice in calling for a “root and branch” reassessment of the efficiency and performance of existing fiscal regimes. Such an exercise should have, as its primary objective, the submission to the minister of recommendations to employ the entire range of taxation measures to engender economic growth and equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth among all its citizens.