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Commentary: Law and Politics: The taxes are here - what else?
Published on March 11, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Lloyd Noel

In the election campaign that started in the last few months of 2012 for the general elections that took place in February 2013, many promises were made by the NNP team of large scale investors who were waiting to come on the island to provide the thousands of jobs for the unemployed.

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Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
The majority of the registered voters responded positively to the promises and, on the 18th February last year, for the second time in our independence history, the whole team was returned to power and in control of the nation’s affairs, with no one in the Lower House of Parliament to oppose anything.

From the outset, in the interim budget upon taking over control of the reins of power, the PM and minister of finance warned that increased taxes on properties in particular were forthcoming.

That warning was confirmed in the December budget and, in the last week or so, the new property tax demands from the Inland Revenue have been delivered to property owners – and from the reports of the majority thus far, the taxes have been increased and in most cases doubled for 2014.

But as one civil servant put it to me -- how is it the controllers do not seem to be making any efforts to pay those workers monies due and owing to them.

And two critics in a road-side group wanted to know from me – what else is forthcoming and how soon, because the economic noose is tightening. I listened to their complaints and sympathised about what they were saying – but I had no direct answer.

But there is no doubting that things are very rough and a whole lot of families are struggling daily to make economic ends meet. And now those that own houses – and the taxes have been increased for payment by end of June – have an additional burden to overcome, with nothing in the pipeline that anyone can point to or recognise as forthcoming in the near or distant future.

It is recognised that the economic picture is not blooming for the controllers and a lot of things that should be taking place are at a standstill.

But those in the driving seats are not sharing with the people what is really happening nor how they are planning to overcome the problem, so that the situation remains in limbo as it were.

Instead we are hearing so much about constitutional reform – and a body of reformers has been set in motion to carry out the exercise, and produce a revised version for parliamentary approval later this year sometime.

How that exercise will help our economic situation, and stimulate the investment portfolio to produce the urgently needed jobs for the unemployed, only time and the eventual outcome will tell.

But in the meantime, all else seems to be at a standstill, while we wait patiently for things to start happening so as to make some positive difference to our people’s lives.

The loss of the major portion of the grant that the Australian government had promised our government for the rebuilding of the House of Parliament seems to have awakened the controllers on the matter.

And this was further encouraged by the interest disclosed by the group that expressed its concern over the plan to build a new Parliament Building elsewhere and demolish the historic damaged building.

As a result thereof, the controllers seem to be re-considering the demolition plan for the damaged building – and restoring the historic structure to its former landmark beauty on the Hill.

And while I was considering the impact the revised property taxes will be having on the thousands of unemployed house owners, I heard the good news, that one of the estates to be leased to foreign investors the government party had campaigned about to win the elections last year, that one investor had actually chosen a government estate to operate a farming project on the island, and negotiations are well advanced to begin operations sometime in the future.

The many unemployed, in the areas where the three other government estates are located, can now live in greater hope and expectation that others of the promised group will soon follow this original investor to come to our nation’s rescue.

So at least after the first year of total control of the seats of power, those in authority can now claim that some things are happening, and with good fortune continuing in their favour others may very well follow in the fullness of time.

This is not to say that we are anywhere nearer the promised greater expectations, but at least there are some positive movements in motion, and these should be followed with care and caution and in no way overestimated.

The debt burden is still our major problem, and finding a group to help us out of that neck of the woods remains a major issue for the controllers to resolve so as to change course.

But while we wait and keep on hoping that some positive changes will come on stream sooner or later, there are some major issues being discussed in government circles that can have serious impact on the road ahead.

Two of them are our abolition of appeals in the High Court to the Privy Council in London, and adopting the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final court of appeal; and also cutting our ties to the Commonwealth and with the Queen of England as our head of state, and by extension moving away from having a governor general as her representative in Grenada.

To replace that system our revised constitution will provide for a president of Grenada Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Whether that person will be elected by the people, or will be appointed by the government in control after a general election, the new system will determine in due course.

Where we heading and how soon we will start moving, only time and the decisions by the controllers will determine in the months and years ahead.

So it is not just more taxes and unemployment facing the people, but some major constitutional and political decisions in the years ahead.
 
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