While property tax is a must, old age pensions must not be touched when the government presents its 2020/2021 fiscal Budget.
Addressing the media during a virtual press conference on Thursday, Abdulah said people were already feeling the strain and the most vulnerable groups in the society must be protected.
“Old age pensions cannot be reversed. We cannot put our senior citizens in greater distress than they already are, so we cannot reduce old-age pension,” he said.
He noted that in 2002 when the late Prime Minister Patrick Manning had put a team together to prepare the 2020 Vision roadmap, Abdulah recommended that a separate fund be set up using the oil and gas windfall revenues to pay senior citizens grants.
Saying his recommendations were ignored by successive governments, Abdulah said the problems experienced now could have been averted if the Fund had been established.
Concerning property tax, Abdulah said, “Property tax is necessary but it has to be done in a transparent fair and equitable way that does not penalise persons who are unable to bear that greater amount of taxes.”
He said people who are lower down in the income bracket, should not be made to pay high property tax.
“There are some owners with expensive properties who are renting to government and private sector firms who get huge returns on their properties but the country doesn’t benefit for that. We need to have property tax but it has to be done in a way that is fair and equitable and transparent,” Abdulah said.
He also called for increased taxes for the wealthy.
“Those who have more are going to have to contribute to those who have nothing at all. That is a progressive system of taxation,” he added.
He also agreed that BHP Billiton 5 and 6.6 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas in T&T’s deepwater was a significant find bunt noted that the revenues from this will not materialise for several years.
Abdulah agreed that T&T needed to reexamine ways in which it could derive the greatest revenue from natural gas, noting that the pricing mechanism for this commodity has to be re-evaluated.
“I don’t think the country is satisfied that the set of pricing mechanisms we have in ensuring the full value of natural gas,” he added.
He also expressed concerns about the public spat between Chief Justice Ivor Archie and a senior member of the High Court Frank Seepersad as well as the perceived discord between Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
“Out national institutions established by the Republican constitution are demonstrating problems and citizens have lost trust in the officeholders and that is a major concern,” Abdulah added.
He said that the MSJ has started a series of webinars geared at discussing the Budget and other problems being experienced in T&T.