By Carl Joseph
The Cabinet, on Wednesday, made a commitment to begin making payments of $3.4 million towards outstanding salary and wages owing to many of its public sector workers and private contractors on January 31st, 2020.
Addressing Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Cabinet spokesman, Minister Melford Nicholas, though not being able to provide the total amount of salary payments still outstanding, did acknowledge that the amount is still “significant”.
“This is a first step… a goodwill indication. It’s an intent that we intend to relieve the pressure and we can’t do it all at once, so this is a down-payment.”
Outlining the one of the reasons the Cabinet identified for the backlog in payments he said, “one of the significant gaps that we’re gonna have to close are on the property tax.”
Nicholas made the allegation that property owners are not, “remaining truthful to their obligation to pay their taxes to the government.”
“We’ve seen a lot of senseless waivers
[with regards to property tax]
. Persons who are putting buildings up for commercial purposes and are merely collecting rent have been given concessions on property taxes… those are going to be discontinued,” explained Nicholas.
The minister also stated that the $3.4 million January payment only represents a small fraction of total government salaries owed.
The list of departments, offices and contractors to be paid are as follows: Central Board of Health Workers – $500,000 in overtime payments; Quarry Workers – overtime payments of $250,000; Customs Officers – $1 million in overtime payments; Clarevue Hospital Workers – $250,000 in back pay; Carnival Prize Winners – $250,000; .Competition Winners – $150,000; and National Solid Waste Management Authority workers and contractors – $1,000,000.
Nicholas also hit hard at the corporate community saying, “we have a number of profitable entities in this country that have enjoyed corporate income tax waivers and concessions for a considerable period of time… we can’t continue like this.”
The minster suggested that corporate firms that have proven themselves to be profitable must pay their fair share of taxes into the government coffers.
Nicholas further stated that the concession arrangement on spectrum fees given to telecommunications providers Flow/Cable and Wireless and Digicel that have existed over the years will come to an end during the course of 2020.
According to the minister, the waived concession fees amounted to $16 million over the concession waiver period.
“So, just for telecommunications alone, I reckon that there is … approximately $28 million. When we get back to a sensible position, that [$28 million] will be a part of the income that the government can rely on, on an annual basis,” he added.
The minister indicated that, this year, the government will be putting significant measures through legislation and policy directives to address all instances of corporate tax evasion.