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QATT head: Royalty tax on operators an obstacle on low-cost housing
Ramdeo Persad, president of the Quarry Association of T&T (QATT), says imposition of a royalty tax on quarry operators will be an obstacle to the Government’s plan for low-cost housing. He said the operators are already paying corporate and value added taxes and more punitive taxation will have to be passed on to the consumer.
“Despite strenuous objections from ourselves over the past several years, it appears that it is the Government’s intention to implement a royalty tax on aggregate won from privately-owned lands. QATT has always maintained that it is unfair that operators, who have inherited quarry lands from their forebearers, or purchased lands at great personal sacrifice, should now be placed in the same category as operators who have received state lands at no cost and pay a royalty on material produced for this privilege,” he said.
“Already the industry is burdened by a series of taxes, including personal and corporate taxes, Value Added Tax and contributions to the Green Fund and is in no position to absorb any further taxation given its loss of market share to the aggregate importers.
We cannot understand the need by the Government to introduce a further tax in these trying economic times. Should this tax be forced upon us in the current scenario, we have no alternative but to pass it on to the consumer. This will in effect significantly increase prices of all quarry products and related facets of the construction industry. This may negate the Government’s good intention of keeping housing at an affordable.”
Persad said while these new revenue generating measures are soon to be implemented, the issue of illegal quarrying has still not been addressed. He said the lawbreakers will not be affected when the royalty tax takes effect.
He said the QATT continues its battle with the state for upgrade and repair of roads leading to quarries in several areas. Persad said the Patrick Manning administration had allocated $205 million for the upgrades to be done by the Works and Infrastructure Ministry, but the project never started and road conditions have deteriorated.
In an e-mail response, Kevin Ramnarine, Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, said based on data obtained by his ministry, there has been a decrease in the number of reports of illegal quarrying activity. On the issue of licenses, Ramnarine said at the end of 2012 there were 43 licensed quarries operating in T&T and an additional 17 were being licensed and 73 comprising whose licenses had expired. He said those will be dealt with early this year.
“During the last period of economic expansion the demand for minerals was much higher than the local supply. In part, this was due to mass disorganisation in the sector, particularly with respect to the granting of licenses and the implementation of regulations.
Over the years, random changes to the process have made it difficult for operators to apply for or renew licenses without great inconvenience and undue expense. New regulations are required to streamline the process if the sector is to grow and develop,” he said.
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