Govt’s Property Tax gamble – Trinidad and Tobago Guardian

The T&T Guardian newspaper interviewed Afra Raymond on the issue of the new property tax regime and its re-introduction into the country. Following is the article with the series of Q&As with Editor/Journalist Debra Wanser for the article, published on Sunday, Sep 19 2021. Click here to read the complete article on the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian website

The Government collected $143 million in 2009, the year that the old Property Taxes ended.

The current estimates of the Property Tax to be collected are to the tune of $504 million annually, so that is about three-and-a-half times more than what property owners paid in 2009, according to Afra Raymond, chartered surveyor and managing director of Raymond & Pierre Limited.

The revenue lost over the last 12 years since the axing of the tax could be more than $5.50 billion, Raymond estimated.

Raymond, a past president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC), said the move to implement the Property Tax would be widely unpopular at a time of many burning issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the existing socio-economic situations.

Raymond believes that with only a slim parliamentary majority, the introduction of the new Property Tax will be a considerable gamble for the Government.

T&T is getting set to reintroduce Property Tax as one of the revenue streams which is expected to bring in millions of dollars for the Treasury.

While there is no specific date given for the rollout, the Government has started laying the foundation. They are attempting to populate the valuation roll. The Government has put out advertisements calling on citizens to file information on property and land ownership with the Valuations Division, Ministry of Finance (MOF). If citizens fail to do so by the end of November 2021, they can face a fine of $5,000.

With this move, Property Tax can be levied on residential and commercial properties and agricultural lands.

Raymond felt that the objections from the Opposition United National Congress elements are bemusing, to say the least. This, he said, is for two reasons–”Firstly, the official record of tax collections from 1993 to 2009 as shown in the graph and table below. When the UNC was in power in the seven-year period 1995-2001, there was a dramatic and unexplained decline in the collections of Land & Building Taxes, which are collected in the non-municipal areas. That decline was reversed when the UNC left office. The table and chart give the details, based on my research in the official records of the Ministry of Finance.

“Secondly, the People’s Partnership (PP) used ‘Axe the Tax’ as a strong slogan in the 2010 general election which they won with 29 out of 41 seats. With that rare three-fifths majority in hand, there was tremendous scope for the PP to have lawfully changed or removed any laws or arrangements it wished, without any need for PNM support. Like the Property Tax, for instance. But that never happened, for whatever reason.”

Raymond answers questions on Property tax

You are of the view that the revision of the property tax is long overdue, can you elaborate on the need for this, please.

Yes, Property Tax is long overdue. The last time Property Tax was collected in T&T was in 2009, so 2022–which is next year, which is what is under discussion–would make that a total of 12 years that no taxes were paid by property owners. By any measure, that is a tremendous benefit that has been enjoyed by property owners. In the previous taxation system, the property taxes were called House Rates for the five Municipalities and Land & Building Taxes for the other parts of the country. The five municipalities are Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Arima, Point Fortin and Chaguanas.

The national totals of Property Tax paid in the period 1993-2009.
Continue reading “Govt’s Property Tax gamble – Trinidad and Tobago Guardian”

Property Matters – More Tobago Love

ppp

In this article I continue to examine the PPPs in Tobago against the role of the responsible elites or officials for these important matters.

Before returning to those large-scale, misbegotten PPP schemes, it is important to give the background in terms of learning and the institutional framework.

The Finance Ministry’s PPP Unit was established in August 2011, to promote public private partnerships for infrastructure in Trinidad and Tobago.  The National PPP Policy was approved by Cabinet on May 31, 2012, as an institutional framework for the development and implementation of projects through the PPP modality. Continue reading “Property Matters – More Tobago Love”

Property Matters – Tobago Love

Tobago Love n.

Trinidad & Tobago
1. The act of beating one’s partner to prove one’s love…

from TriniMummy.com [Via http://www.skettel.com/ an online Caribbean dictionary.]

This article uses the threads I have been exploring in relation to the two large-scale Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Tobago to discuss the risks which are likely to arise quite soon in that arena.

The case will be made in three parts – the existing two PPPs, with a note on the Tobago Sandals MoU fiasco; the emerging arrangements for new PPPs in Tobago and the perils arising from the failure or refusal to examine the failed PPPs.

Tobago’s PPPs

Magdalena Grand (formerly Tobago Hilton)

magdalena
Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort

This 198-room hotel was built in 2000 on the Tobago Plantations estate by Vanguard Holdings, which comprised Guardian Holdings, Angostura Ltd and the T&T State via e Teck, with Hilton International having a minor shareholding.  The project was financed with a $16.75M USD bond from Citicorp and was soon in difficulty, as in 2008 the State had to bail-out the private shareholders and commit large sums of Public Money to repair the buildings, which were by then badly-damaged by sea-blast.
Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Love”

VIDEO: 4th Caribbean International Tourism Conference – 11 Dec 2019

citc

Afra Raymond made a presentation at the 4th Caribbean International Tourism Conference at UWI’s Cave Hill Campus in Barbados on Trinidad & Tobago’s State-owned hotels to outline the results and provisional conclusions of his research examining the existing State-owned hotels as a way of understanding the real prospects for the large-scale Tobago Sandals proposed by the incumbent government in 2015.

Property Matters – State owned hotels

Manufactured consent’ is supported by “…effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion…“.
—Noam Chomsky


citcThis article is based on notes for my presentation today to the Fourth Caribbean International Tourism Conference (CITC 2019) at UWI’s Cave Hill campus. My presentation will be on Trinidad & Tobago’s State-owned hotels to outline the results and provisional conclusions of my research. I designed that research program to examine the existing State-owned hotels as a way of understanding the real prospects for the large-scale Tobago Sandals being proposed by the current government in 2015.

I am questioning the role of our responsible elites in light of Dr Terrence Farrell’s ‘Where do we go from here‘ speech to the Queen’s Park Cricket Club on 22 November 2019.  Dr Farrell also chaired a THA-appointed Committee to recommend a Medium-Term Policy and Planning Framework for Tobago. Those proposals were made on 12 November 2019 and included three new all-inclusive hotels for Tobago adding about 1,800 new rooms. Continue reading “Property Matters – State owned hotels”

Property Matters – THA BOLT Appeal, part two

“…A nod is as good as a wink to a Blind Horse…”
—A cynical Cockney view of political tricks.

“…You drink your rum, well let me drink mine…”
—A cynical local saying on how improper behaviour is tacitly accepted.

In this case, the THA, making its long-standing case for increased autonomy, seems comfortable to defend the wretched MILSHIRV agreement almost in the same breath as its perennial complaints of severe financial hardship. Well I tell you.

milshirv complex
Milshirv Complex in Tobago

The misbegotten MILSHIRV project is ground-zero in the workbook for how PPPs and BOLT arrangements can violate the Public Interest. Our responsible senior Public Officials agreed to change the terms of the lawsuit so that the legality of this BOLT contract was never tested by the Court, so the matter was converted by agreement to become an ‘interpretation‘ issue. Given the Court of Appeal ruling on 21st October 2019, the Public Interest has once again been grossly violated.

Typical views of failed projects consider delayed completions, cost over-runs or structural failure but despite the popularity, such views are entirely incorrect.  The proper position is that the only failed project is one from which we learn no lessons.  That is the real learning here.

This article takes a closer look at the Court of Appeal judgment in this matter and the real implications for the public interest. Continue reading “Property Matters – THA BOLT Appeal, part two”

Property Matters – THA BOLT Appeal

This article examines the recent Court of Appeal ruling that the THA did not have the power to enter certain PPPs as had been done in the MILSHIRV project.

tha-bolt1

In November 2011, the THA entered a Public Private Partnership with the Rahael Holdings group for MILSHIRV, a new office building at the corner of Claude Noel Highway and Shirvan Road in western Tobago.  I was heavily critical of that project as it was clear to me that the basic principles of needs assessment had been violated, as detailed later in this article. Continue reading “Property Matters – THA BOLT Appeal”

Property Matters – HDC Housing Bonds Part Three

Property Matters – HDC Housing Bonds Part Three

The first article in this series set out the background to these proposed bonds and the implications of the HDC’s perennial problem with bad property titles.  The second drew parallels between these proposals and the roots of the 2008 Wall Street crash, with some references to Jamaica’s National Housing Trust and its contribution system as an alternative for financing affordable housing.  This week I conclude by delving into the heart of the matter, the HDC’s finances and its performance in terms of its existing bond portfolio.

One of my persistent complaints against many of our State Agencies, including the HDC, is the long-term failure or refusal to publish proper audited accounts as required by laws and regulations.  nha-hdc-logoI am pleased to report that my requests for NHA/HDC financial statements from 2003 to 2018 were satisfied in April this year.  Once again, I thank the exemplary officers at the HDC for their assistance.  Even if this time I had to engage my attorney to send HDC a pre-action protocol letter before the financial statements were released and what is more, they have not refunded my legal fees.

Those financial statements are for the NHA from 2003 to 2005 and the HDC after 2005.  This article is focused on these proposed bonds so the first point to raise is the status of those financial statements. Continue reading “Property Matters – HDC Housing Bonds Part Three”