Until there is a change in the law UG should register for VAT

I have hesitated to engage in the ongoing debate in the print media on whether the VAT being imposed on educational services extends to fees charged by the University of Guyana. However, because even the media seems unsure, I do not think further hesitation helps.

VAT is not a particularly complex tax and has a few basic principles. Section 9 of the VAT Act imposes VAT on (a), every taxable supply by a taxable person; and (b), on every import of goods or import of services, other than an exempt import. We are here concerned with (a) and can disregard (b). Because the section dealing with taxable person also refers to taxable activity, it seems preferable to look at the definition of “taxable person” before going on to examine taxable activity.

A taxable person is a person who is registered, or who is required to register under section 11 of the Act. “Person” is defined in the Act to include the State, an agency of the State, a local authority, board, natural person, trust, company, and partnership. In other words, there is no automatic or definitional exception of the state or, by extension, educational institutions funded by the State. Continue reading Until there is a change in the law UG should register for VAT

Proclamations have been backdated

On Monday a colleague sent me an email with the subject ‘Proclamation’ and directing me to the website of the Official Gazette at http://officialgazette.gov.gy/. On going to the site I found Legal Supplement B of the Official Gazette which contains two proclamations signed by Dr Roger Luncheon setting May 11, 2015 as the date for the elections of the members of the National Assembly and the Regional Democratic Councils.

The date of the Gazette is shown as 24th January, 2015 which was surprising enough to cause me to do some checking. On further examination I realised that the Gazette was posted up late afternoon of February 9. To satisfy myself further I checked with the Law Library, the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the Parliament Library early today (10th February) and learnt that none of those key government offices had a copy of a Gazette Legal Supplement B bearing the date January 24.

I then checked with the Office of the President where I learnt that the impugned Gazette was delivered to them yesterday February 10. Clearly the Gazette containing the two Proclamations was backdated for reasons known only to the President, Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Mr Anil Nandlall, whose face adorns the Official Gazette page. That this was obviously backdating is also evident from the fact that the Legal Supplement B of the Gazette of January 24 appears at the top of the page after the Official Gazette of January 31 and February 7.

With this kind of conduct and ethical behaviour, we should not be surprised at the state of our country.

Meanwhile the proclamations dissolving the Parliament and the Regional Democratic Councils have still not been published.

Unravelling the mystery of the elections date

Ever since December 6, 2014 the naming of a date for general elections has become a circus of cynicism by the government. Let us recall some background information: the National Assembly last met on July 10, one month before its two-month recess which began on August 10 and ended on October 10. Even after the recess ended the government was not enthusiastic about the reconvening of the National Assembly once the Alliance for Change tabled a motion of no-confidence against it.

On November 10 2014, the date designated by the President for the National Assembly to reconvene, he instead issued a proclamation proroguing the National Assembly thus suspending parliamentary democracy and oversight over the executive, key components of Guyana’s constitutional framework. The President explained the reason behind the prorogation as the opportunity it afforded the opposition parties in the National Assembly to engage the government in discussions outside of the Assembly, failing which the government would dissolve it and proceed to elections.

The Leader of the Opposition demurred and as early as December 6, the President announced his intention to dissolve the National Assembly with a view to elections. However, out of a misplaced regard for people’s enjoyment of Christmas, the President said that he would wait until early in 2015 to name an elections date.
Continue reading Unravelling the mystery of the elections date

Clerk needs to explain why he is now excluding discretion of Speaker to convene the Assembly when the public interest requires it

The Stabroek News of October 16, 2014 reports the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Sherlock Isaacs as saying that it was up to the government to set a date for the next parliamentary sitting. The report suggests that the statement followed the failure of the Chief Whips for both the government and opposition to find consensus on a date.

The National Assembly is subject to the Standing Orders, the authority of which no one disputes and which was recognised by Chief Justice (ag.) Ian Chang in the celebrated “budget cuts” case. It may be useful therefore to refer to the Standing Order 8, 2 taken from the website of the National Assembly under the name of the same Mr. Isaacs.

Here is the text, including the heading:

Sitting convened at the discretion of the Speaker

(2) If, during an adjournment of the Assembly, it is represented to the Speaker by the Government, or the Speaker is of the opinion, that the public interest requires that the Assembly should meet on a day earlier than that to which it stands adjourned, the Speaker may give notice accordingly and the Assembly shall meet at the time stated in such notice. The Clerk shall as soon as possible inform each Member in writing, or telegram or by appropriate electronic means.

Mr. Isaacs needs to explain why he is now excluding the discretion of the Speaker to convene the Assembly when the public interest requires it. Now if a Motion of “No Confidence” is not a matter of public interest then Mr. Isaacs might like to tell us what is.

There are three further problems I have with Mr. Isaacs. The first is whether he believes in the separation of powers; the second is why he would consider himself the person who should pronounce on the operation of the Standing Orders and finally whether he can advise on the source of the authority of the Chief Whips to determine the convening of the National Assembly.

PNC-R and PPP/C: six of one and four-fifths of the other

In 1992, after 28 years of the PNC rule of Guyana the call for a change in government became an end in in itself. The reason why an electorate comprising hundreds of thousands of persons votes in any particular way – or not vote – will always be complex. Yet, in 1992 there was a feeling that any government would be better than the PNC for which paramountcy of the party, rigged elections and long queues for basic food items had become the defining features. In the circumstances the 1992 elections did produce a change of government with the PPP/C gaining an outright majority of votes and seats in the National Assembly.

Fast-forward to 2014, and 22 years of PPP/C government. For this government, and particularly since Jagdeo became President, the defining issues have been corruption, constitutional violations and failure to hold local government elections. To deduce from this that the two parties are significantly different from each other would be simplistic. In vital areas of democracy and governance their similarities vastly outweigh their differences and in terms of elections the PNC offered rigged elections at the national level while the PPP/C follows a policy of no elections at the local government level.
Continue reading PNC-R and PPP/C: six of one and four-fifths of the other