In Awong’s contribution to the debate on Wednesday, he said between 2003 when he entered local government and 2010, 36 communities in his region were dependent on truck-borne water. He said within that period, despite the existence of land and building taxes, only one pavilion and no play parks were built, forcing him to take his children to Chaguanas for them to enjoy the privilege of a play park.
This changed between 2010 and 2015, he said, when 23 pavilions and 14 play parks were built, and the number of areas dependent on truckborne water reduced from 36 to 13. All this was done while the Property Tax and Valuation of Land Acts 2009 were suspended by the PP government.
Awong acknowledged the urgent need to raise revenue as the recession deepens, but said he had little reason to trust that their taxes would filter back into their communities based on the PNM government’s history of “rural neglect” during times of plenty.
Awong welcomed the concept of Local Government Reform as campaigned for by the PNM during the last local government election. The reform promised greater autonomy for corporations including the ability for them to collect and use taxes in their municipalities.
However, he said he has little faith in the implementation of reform as its concept has been touted on political platforms for as long as he could remember.
Awong supported the motion on the grounds that this was not the best time for the implementation of a property tax.
The motion calling for the government to suspend the tax for three years was put forward by Alderman Ravi Ratiram in a special statutory meeting of the council yesterday afternoon. All councillors, aldermen, the Chairman and the CEO were in attendance as the motion was passed with only one abstention from the lone PNM Councillor for Las Lomas/ San Raphael, Candida Pathron.
In his closing remarks before the vote, Ratiram ripped up a Property Tax valuation form as was done by UNC Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on April 30 in Debe. Ratiram echoed Persad-Bissessar’s argument that there was no legal obligation to fill out the form.
Newsday asked Chairman Awong whether he supported the call for citizens in disagreement to not fill out the valuation forms. Awong said, “Yes.”