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PM thanks population for understanding

By SEAN DOUGLAS Friday, February 12 2016

PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley thanked the population for its understanding of the challenges faced by his Government newly in office, even as he prepared Cabinet for a Tobago retreat to review their performance so far as they approach their first six months in office. He urged we don’t talk ourselves into the worst aspects of a recession .

Dr Rowley urged the authorities to take action against business places that illicitly charge VAT at the old rate of 15 percent and urged consumers to exercise their power of choice over which business places to patronise. Newsday asked if he had taken a work-break for Carnival and what’s now on his agenda? “I played mas on Monday and took part in Jouvert. I worked all Tuesday .

Normally I play some sailor mas on Tuesday, but this year I did not, and that’s my contribution to national development,” he quipped .

“But yes, I think you look at hurdles .

We came in as a new Government . I think the population has been very, very understanding. It’s a difficult time in more ways than one, and I want to thank the population for being so understanding for what we are dealing with. “We try to keep the confidence of the population on board, telling you what we are dealing with, so you will understand why things are not happening, or happening .

Saying the first week in March will mark six months of the Government being in office, he said Cabinet meets in Tobago on March 4, and then holds a retreat on March 5 and 6. “The main reason is to have a look at what we’ve done so far; how we are coping with the challenges, and how the country is positioned,” he explained. “We are expecting an IMF (International Monetary Fund) visit here in the next month, or two. What are they going to meet? We have not really changed much in the six-month period, and there is a lot to be changed, because the circumstances warrant the change. But the whole question is how is the country coping with the challenging circumstances? We are hoping that the people responsible for the decision-making process will be in the best position to make those decisions. That’s why we are having this retreat, and taking responsibility for the country.” Reporters asked if the Government has plans to ensure that groceries pass on savings to consumers due to a recent cut in the VAT rate from 15 to 12.5 percent? He said the Government had left some items VAT-free and that it is an offence to collect VAT on such items. “And where VAT is charged we expect VAT will be charged at the appropriate level. I’m reading and hearing about VAT being charged at 15 percent. That is supposed to be illegal. We are taking steps to have the correct information (publicised), and all I can say is that where persons are found to be profiteering and breaking the law, the law enforcement authorities should prosecute them to the hilt .

Even if its $10, or $1. Any person who is caught doing that should be prosecuted. These are management arrangements for the country, and anyone who seeks to get more than their fair share, especially at the expense of others who are trying to cope should feel the full brunt of the law.” Rowley said he had earlier yesterday asked the line minister to ensure a full staff at the Consumer Affairs Division to find out where such delinquencies occur, and that for any violation of the law, persons should be prosecuted. He also urged consumers to exercise their power of choice, by boycotting dishonest businesses.

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