PM: 7,000 foods to go VAT-free
By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, October 2 2012
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Helpful husband: Minister in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure Stacy Roopnarine gets her husband Damien Lyder to carry a bag of Budget document...
Prices on about 7,000 food items stand to go down in the consumer’s grocery basket, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar disclosed yesterday as she accused Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley of “deception” over his claim that most items are already VAT-free.
“I think it is totally deceptive to say that these things that are zero-rated are all the things we in Trinidad and Tobago eat,” the Prime Minister said at the Sir Ellis Clarke corridor at the Parliament at the International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain.
“I am advised that there are over 7,000 items that stand to have VAT dropped. We may not eat all, but there are lot more food and beverages out there that are not zero-rated (VAT free) and that will immediately impact on the consumer’s food basket.”
The Prime Minister continued, “If it is one cent less, every cent that you can get off in buying food that is a benefit to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I am very happy with the way we were able to make this provision.”
The Prime Minister’s attack was a counter-claim to Rowley’s own allegation of deception levied at her at a PNM Women’s League event in Port-of-Spain.
On Sunday, Rowley said, “unprocessed food of a kind used for human consumption does not carry VAT, so everything you buy in the market has no VAT. All basic food items are already zero-rated.
“That is the level of deceit and deception and lies that passes for government.”
The day before, at the pre-Budget rally at Mid Centre Mall, Chaguanas, the Prime Minister announced the removal of the 15 percent VAT on all food items, with exceptions such as alcohol.
Although Finance and Economy Minister Larry Howai was expected to elaborate on the new zero-rated list of items during his reading of the Budget, he did not.
However, Persad-Bissessar yesterday said there are currently about 69 items that are zero-rated but several items that are not.
She said these items include processed foods (except corned beef, sardines and mackrel); canned foods; foods in jars; most cereals such as porridge; most fruit juices (except grapefruit and mauby). Items such as Ovaltine, Milo, tea and artificial sweeteners are not zero-rated, she noted.
“I could go on, the list is about 7,000,” she said.
The Prime Minister, in turn, also accused Rowley of mis-stating the number of signatures he gathered in protest of Section 34.
“Mr Rowley has deceived the entire population,” she said, saying she understood the petition did not contain 25,000 signatures as he claimed.
Minister of Food Production Devant Maharaj said there are “scores” of items in relation to which the removal of VAT would have an impact.
“As a direct temporary measure to intervene and relieve consumers, VAT will be removed on all food items except luxury items and alcohol,” Maharaj noted in a press release. “It is in this regard that the Honourable Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, mandated an inter-ministerial and inter-agency committee to look into defining which commodities this policy will cover and advise on the way forward.”
“I am advised by stakeholders of that committee of a preliminary short-list of items that currently attract VAT,” he said.
“However, there remains a tremendous number of items that can be made zero-rated and there also exists situations of inclusion of a few items within categories but the exclusion of many, for example in the juice category (orange and grapefruit juice to the exclusion of scores of other juice flavours).
This also exists with breakfast cereals, sausages, hams, bacon and canned foods.”
According to Maharaj, until the complete list is “developed and confirmed”, consumers can expect to benefit from a 15 percent price reduction of the items ranging from pancake mixes to smoked chicken.
Items to go VAT-free
cereals (only corn flakes is
flavoured milk drinks
juices (only citrus juices are zero-rated)
almond essence (vanilla essence is zero-rated)
coconut milk powder