Afra Raymond joins a panel on The Pandemic Economy, the pre-budget show on TV6 Television in Trinidad and Tobago, where he and the other speakers discuss the local construction industry and the public debt to it, public procurement along with the soon-to-be-implemented updated Property Tax regime. Video courtesy CCN TV6
Afra Raymond is interviewed by Jason Williams on The Morning Brew on CNC3 TV on the topic of property tax in light of the impending roll out of the updated taxation regime. Video courtesy CNC3 Television.
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 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.
Afra Raymond was interviewed by Richard Ragoobarsingh and Senator Paul Richards on Power 102FM’s Power Breakfast Show on Property Tax, soon to be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago. Audio courtesy Power 102 FM
THE EDITOR: The joint letter from my colleagues at the T&T Society of Planners and the T&T Institute of Architects raised very important criticisms of the current wave of urban development projects, with the chronic levels of unacceptable secrecy and fake consultations.
On the secrecy issue, the State reportedly refused the JCC’s Freedom of Information request for the POS Revitalisation plan on the basis that it did not originate in that Ministry and that this was a series of privately-conceived projects. Those are not lawful exemption grounds under the FoIA as the public is entitled to receive information ‘in the possession of public authorities’, so there is no requirement for the State to originate that plan.
The fake consultation issue is a long-term and valid concern which was especially noted as the 17th recommendation of the Uff Report (2009):
“…User groups and other interest groups should be properly consulted on decisions regarding public building projects, to ensure that relevant views can be expressed at the appropriate time and taken into account before decisions are made…” (emphasis is mine)
Of course, the sitting Prime Minister was the leading voice calling for that Commission of Enquiry and indeed played a major role as a witness. We need to insist on the maintenance of proper consultation if we are to use our limited development options for equitable outcomes.
THE EDITOR: As we enter yet another tight covid19 lockdown, one cannot help wondering how we slipped from our generally commendable performance in the first half of 2020 to these terrifying numbers of deaths and hospitalisations.
In August 2020, the COVID-19 regulations were changed to penalise unauthorised congregations and failure to wear masks. Despite the high stakes, I was sceptical as to how many of those tickets were actually issued and how many fines had actually been paid. For one thing, the evident levels of congregation and liming testified to people ignoring the law.
The AG confirmed – in Newsday’s May 5 edition – that fines for breaches of the covid19 regulations will actually be payable from May 15, with electronic payments also being an option. So it was previously impossible to pay those fines and it is deplorable that such an important element of our pandemic planning was allowed to remain incomplete at the stage of utmost importance. This was a true and costly failure of our public administration.
I have no doubt that the reckless behaviour would have been curbed if those fines were actually collected from those who received the reported 10,000 tickets issued. Yet here we are, on the edge of the precipice, wondering which official or department was responsible for this grievous lapse. No comment on this from the PM or any officials, so the Code of Silence seems intact, even when the health of the general public is at stake.
The Judiciary just invited expressions of interest (EoIs) for an electronic payments system, with a closing date of May 11. After examination of those EoIs, qualified contractors will be identified before they can be invited to tender, so some delays could be expected.
Afra Raymond gave a second guest lecture to Cultural Studies Post-Graduate students at UWI St. Augustine in their course, “Debates in Caribbean Cultural Identity”. His lecture dealt with the topic, “The poor, their housing, and how Government policies have ‘worked’ in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.” The presentation on Government policies was in relation to the Course theme of Identity / Policing Caribbean Identities.
Afra Raymond gave a guest lecture to Cultural Studies Post-Graduate students at UWI St. Augustine in their course, “Debates in Caribbean Cultural Identity”. His presentation concerned race and racism, in relation to the Course theme of Identity. This lecture grew out of Mr. Raymond’s TEDxPortofSpain 2015 talk: “Is it only white people who can be racist?”
The AG’s Press Conference of Monday 21st December 2020 was an attempt to control the government’s critics, while also promoting the notion that the issues arising from the amendment of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act (The Act) are poorly understood by everyone outside the Cabinet. The AG strongly criticised both me and Opposition spokesman, Senator Wade Mark. This had me wondering at both my company and the AG’s opening declaration that what was needed was ‘a studied analysis which is factual and truthful’. Well I tell you.
This article will place in context the recent, damaging changes and rebut those extremely misleading claims.
My essential point is that full implementation of The Act, unduly delayed, is now seriously compromised by the latest amendments. These changes comprise serious exclusions which now place our patrimony in far greater risk.
I will outline the main points so that readers can decide on the validity of the AG’s criticisms. After all, a studied analysis which is factual and truthful is sometimes the only way to make-out fabricators and the existential threat such people pose to our development.