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State debt to citizens

Published: 
Saturday, August 11, 2018

Many small business owners, we have heard reported, lost their businesses, when the State is their biggest client, because the State is very casual about paying its bills. Those, who are not in business, can have the same experience in a variety of ways: there is the slow payment of tax refunds and the even slower payment of social benefits. The State is ever ready to charge and collect interest on funds owed but pays no interest on its debts.

In the Pay-As-You-Earn tax system, if one decides to work it so that a refund is always due at the end of the tax year, to both avoid interest penalties for late filing and to serve as a saving, one can wait more than a year, if the sum is significant. Ethics does not appear to be a factor; it matters not that they have had one’s funds working, interest-free, for more than a year. The State is slow to pay, like it or lump it, there is no recourse.

Another disgrace is the treatment of the physically and mentally challenged, who receive the disability benefit. Should they dare to survive to the age of 65, the disability benefit is discontinued, but the Old Age Pension (OAP) does not automatically begin. Despite having all the relevant biometric data on file, for more than 30 years, the process is restarted and the physically and mentally challenged can remain waiting for almost three years, with no benefit to assist with their care. To make it even more obscene, a call can be received to confirm that they are still alive and the months continue to go by, with no receipt of the OAP.

Just a reminder, the business of the State is managed by people, Trinbagonians; not by some abstract, amorphous entity; it is managed by fellow citizens. The absence of ethics in conducting the business of the State and the callous treatment of our most vulnerable speaks volumes about us as a people. The sad thing is that highlighting it will make not one iota of difference. Those whom the cap fits could still, as the Americans say, care less.

J LATCHMAN
St Augustine

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