A more efficient tax collection system is coming says Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Speaking at the opening of the Point Fortin Area Hospital on Saturday, Rowley said now that energy prices are at an all-time low, the Government must rely on an efficient tax collection system to find funds to run the country in the future.
He said an efficient Revenue Authority has to be established whereby taxes are collected "efficiently and equitably." It does not mean higher taxes, but a more equitable system of taxation, he added.
"It is important to collect the taxes that are due, not to tax people more because we have settled on what the taxes should be," he said.
"We in this country have become accustomed to a system where the Government assumes significant responsibility for the population where education is free, health care is free. It is one of the few places in the world, where this is so.
"We have highways to be built, roads to be built. Based on the economics we get revenues from taxes and from things we sell or earn. We have agreed on a tax structure in this country. People earning 6,000 or less pay no tax."
The PM noted that the country was facing an economic storm whereby oil and gas prices have been down consistently since 2014.
"In fact, now it's a little worse. The products we sell in oil and gas, the downstream products, which we make here and sell, there is no buyer. Therefore, the ability of the Government to fund the kind of life you have come to accept is far gone," Rowley said.
He said those politicians who were saying they would cancel taxes were being irresponsible because this was not sustainable public policy.
"So if anybody is coming to tell you that their election campaign is based on eliminating taxes that we have agreed on and it is not onerous, them is people to watch. Any promise to reduce corporate tax is election gimmickry and wholescale irresponsibility in T&T," Rowley said.
He said they raised the corporation tax for banks from 25 per cent to 30 per cent.
"Banks still reported a profit so banks were made to bear a bit more of that burden," he said.
Rowley explained that if the taxes are not collected efficiently, "the law-abiding salary earning person pays taxes upfront but there are other people in the country who benefit far more than you who are getting away through foul means by not paying their taxes." He said 40 per cent of taxes which ought to be collected, were not being collected by the Government.
Rowley also defended the move to restructure Petrotrin, noting that the Government had to borrow $2.6 billion to pay workers.
Rowley also said that even though Parliamentarians had asked for a salary increase, it was decided that it will not be implemented unless the economy could sustain it.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said the Government had invested $3 billion in health care infrastructure. The 100-bed facility includes a maternity unit, paediatric services, burns unit, psychiatric services, intensive care unit and four operating theatres. Deyalsingh said the Sangre Grande hospital will be opened soon.