Let us recall that when the UPP took over the responsibility of Government in March, 2004, it claimed that it met an economy in shambles and on the brink of collapse.
But while it continued to insist that the economy was in a mess, it dutifully extracted from the same so-called disastrous economy the most taxes ever taken from a small island economy of less than 80,000 people in world history.
Truth be told, this motley group of UPP tricksters lied to the people during the 2004 election campaign and said that the country’s tax payers were putting enough money into the treasury to run the affairs of state. They argued over and over again that the failures of government to pay public servants on time and meet debt commitments was simply because the ABLP was corrupt
Lo and behold, the UPP government now has now taken from the people and placed at its disposal almost 800 million dollars a year in taxes, compared to less than 400 million collected by the ABLP in 2003. In other words, the UPP has increased the tax burden by almost 100 percent in three and a half years and yet:
- None of this massive increase in government taxation revenue has gone into meeting commitments to Social Security and the Medical Benefits Scheme.
- None of this massive increase in government taxation revenue has been able to prevent government from presiding over spiraling increases in the cost of living
- None of this massive increase in government taxation revenue has gone into specific plans for reducing the astronomically high cost of electricity and other basic utilities to the people of Antigua and Barbuda
- None of this massive increase in government taxation revenue was able to prevent the UPP from borrowing millions of high interest dollars from UPP financiers to fix the airport, buy equipment for Public Works without public tender and pay Winston Derrick money he did not deserve for the Dulcina property in Barbuda leased from the ABLP government for next to nothing
- None of this massive increase in government taxation revenue was allowed to have any impact on rising crime around the country
- In every year of its stewardship so far this government has been able to present to this Honourable House updated versions of its unprecedented success in taxing the people into poverty.
- Having taken the reins of government when tax revenue was less than 400 million dollars, the UPP has raised indirect taxes alone to 496.9 million in 2007. In 2008, the UPP will take 586.1 million dollars in indirect taxes from the people of this country.
- Of this amount, 420.3 million dollars will come from taxes on domestic trade and transactions with the ABST alone accounting for 230.4 million. We learn at page 55 of the 2008 Budget Statement that in 2007, “the revenue generated from the ABST was 52.4 million dollars higher than the six taxes it replaced”.
- Direct taxes in 2008 (page 110) will amount to 127.4 million dollars. 18.6 million will come from property taxes; corporate income tax will yield 53.8 million and personal income tax which is now a larger contributor to the public purse than corporate income tax will generate 55 million dollars.
- Still, notwithstanding the resounding success of its taxation-gone-crazy policy, the management of the fiscal operations of central government under the UPP, like its stewardship in general, has been a dismal failure.
Everywhere you turn in the management of state affairs, you see mounting evidence of the tangled web woven by the UPP in its practice of deceit.
- It mercilessly overtaxes the poor and calls it adjustment
- It squanders hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every years and calls it stabilization
- It spends hundreds of millions more than it collects and calls it fiscal prudence
- It tinkers with the people’s disposable income destroyed by taxation and calls it relief
- It takes from those who have not to give to those who have too much and calls it government in the sunshine
When the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party returns to government, we will set aside the heartlessness of this UPP government that shows no consideration for those struggling to make ends meet.
For example, the very people the UPP says it wants to shield from the personal income tax that they cannot afford… it turns around and hits them hard with a 15% value added tax on their food, their clothing, their shelter, their doctor bills, their phone bills, their gym fees, their efforts to improve themselves, their entertainment… their happiness.
To correct this unfortunate state of affairs, an ALP government will take the following measures:
- Immediately abolish personal income tax now responsible for taking 55 million dollars from the disposable incomes of persons working for more than 3,000 dollars per month
- Transform Antigua and Barbuda into a duty free zone capable of competing favourably with St Maarten for the duty free shopping dollars of nationals and tourists from the region and the wider international community. We will not wait for any study to be completed. We will act immediately. This measure will significantly reduce the cost of goods sold in Antigua and Barbuda and by extension the high cost of living.
- Introduce a system for period adjustments of the ABST to cushion the effects of rising commodity prices