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Maxi owners on $35m tax rebate: Wives already counting cash

Published: 
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Maxi taxi driver Ricky Lal counts his earnings at the City Gate, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. Some 400 owners are expected to benefit from a VAT and Motor Vehicle Tax rebate announced in Monday’s budget. PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS

Maxi taxi operators who purchased 25-seater vehicles in previous years will be getting $35 million in rebates from the 2015 budget, as the People’s Partnership (PP) Government seeks to honour a tax-waiver commitment made by the former People’s National Movement (PNM) administration but which was outstanding for the last nine years.

Trade, Industry and Investment Minister, and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Vasant Bharath confirmed the situation yesterday, after Finance Minister Larry Howai announced the concession for such maxi operators in Monday’s budget speech. Howai had said the outstanding payment was owed to drivers since 2005 and would be made.

Allocation by the Finance Ministry of $35 million to make the payment is contained in the draft estimates of recurrent expenditure, one of several budget documents. The document states the payment is in lieu of remission of taxes. Bharath told T&T Guardian that a commitment had been made by the PNM government in 2005 to waive taxes and VAT on purchase of 25-seater maxi taxis. 

However, Bharath said the Finance Ministry’s information was that the refunds owed to the operators of such vehicles had never been paid. He said the move to deal with the outstanding issue was made in response to representations by six maxi taxi associations.

Yesterday, the Finance Ministry received from Eon Hewitt, representing executive members of the Association of Maxi Taxi operators of all the routes, thanking Government for the rebate and seeking a meeting to work out the logistics of the payments.

In the e-mail Hewitt stated: “The last 48 hours has been a wonderful experience for us as executive members of the Association of Maxi Taxis in this bless (sic) twin island. The journey was long and bitter but as we come to the end, the roses start to bloom, hearts racing and wives counting.

“Gentlemen, can we look forward to sitting down and working out the matrix to bring this issue to a satisfactory conclusion in the near future? On behalf of all six routes and the association executives, we wish to thank you all for bringing nine years of uncertainty to this point of success. All the best for your future endeavors. Much thanks.”

Contacted yesterday on why the PNM, during its tenure, had not met the commitment to the maxi operators in 2005, former PNM Works Minister Colm Imbert said “a lot of things.” PNM deputy leader Marlene McDonald said she didn’t know anything about the arrangement the PNM had with the maxi owners in 2005 since she had entered the government in 2007.

Caribbean airlines gets $718M 
Meanwhile, budget documents also lists transfers from the Finance Ministry for Caribbean Airlines to the tune of $718 million, a $465.2 million increase over the transfer level for 2014. Funds include $11.3 million for CAL’s debt servicing in 2015. Documents on draft estimates of development programmes list an allocation of $75.3 million for the Police Service, which has its own funding.

Recurrent expenditure for the National Operations Centre, which co-ordinates security operations, has also been placed under the Prime Minister’s Office. Its 2015 level is $355.6 million. Recurrent expenditure is also listed under National Security for the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security to the tune of $13 million and $135 million for the Strategic Services Agency. A new item, the Cyber Security Programme, is also being introduced in National Security with a $3.8 million injection.

New bodies being established in the budget for 2015 include the Finance Ministry’s supervisor of insolvency, with $669,000 for recurrent expenditure. A further $1.8 million and $1.5 million are listed for the office of the supervisor and equipment. Another being established in the Energy Ministry is a quarry authority to oversee activities on quarrying. Some $1.7 million is allocated as start-up funding. There are decreases in recurrent expenditure for all regional corporations. 

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