Errol Pilgrim

John Doe is not a government minister, neither is he head of any government department.

Mr Doe is among the thousands of ordinary workers in the public service entitled by law to tax-exempt purchases of motor cars.

Like his counterparts in other statutory bodies and throughout the public service, Doe is a travelling officer entitled – pandemic or no pandemic - to motor-car tax exemptions and a travelling allowance.

But the UNC’s surfeit of crassness and hypocrisy has now hit a new low. It condemns government ministers for accessing the same motor-car tax exemption entitlement that UNC Members of Parliament have accepted during the pandemic – an entitlement that was so obscenely abused by some UNC ministers during their term in office that some are the subject of ongoing police investigations.

By seeking to raise irrational public ire over government ministers accessing their legitimate entitlements, the UNC typically fails - or refuses- to consider the fact that when you cut remuneration packages of people at the top it tends to trickle down to people at the bottom, thereby placing the already humble packages of ordinary people like John Doe in potential peril.

Fortunately, the UNC is not in office. But its bombastic “concern” for the well-being of the average citizen belies the self-serving policies that were the hallmark of their performance in office.

No longer in charge of the coffers, they seek to foment public odium and malice against every strong position taken by the Government in the interest of the population, with the aim of changing the narrative and weakening the Government’s resolve. So, while they hoped to make a big, diversionary stink about a facility they themselves enjoy, they resort to the hollow politics inherent in the desperation of a photo opportunity to distribute random boxes of food to people they pretend to care about.

In fact, as the spectre of those sad five years in office continues to haunt the UNC’s every move, there appears to be no limit to its desperate efforts to gain political relevance. The UNC’s concern about motor-car tax exemptions is typically replete with deceit. During the tenure of the UNC administration, the exemptions were abused, misused and subjected to a kind of “never-see-come-see” feeding frenzy that suggested luxury cars would soon be extinct, as per the following:

•Persad-Bissessar stoutly defended the action of her Housing Minister buying a series of high-end vehicles for himself under the terms of his engagement. Said Minister presided over the lease by his Ministry of a luxury Range Rover for his personal use as well as a luxury Mercedes Benz for an unknown individual, at huge monthly costs.

•When confronted, Dr Moonilal sought to dismiss public concerns by arrogantly stating: “the Range Rover really rides well” and he believes everybody should have one.

•In another government ministry, a Toyota Prado Land Cruiser, equivalent to the luxury Lexus GX, was casually written off after a crash and nobody raised an eyebrow.

•A loquacious former UNC AG imported two luxury Range Rovers. The fact that the two vehicles carried the same chassis number has landed him in some legal hot water.

•Even as her own BMW was being licensed with her duly accessed exemptions, UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial was recently on a platform decrying the motor-car tax exemption for members of the Government. She said she is entitled to the exemptions because she is not a leader nor is she a part of the government, so nobody could hold her responsible for anything.

•Another current UNC parliamentarian is known to have purchased a $2.3 million four- litre Mercedes Benz AMG G63 that earned him $1.4 million in tax concessions. The parliamentarian subsequently transferred the vehicle to a friend. The matter is also the subject of a police investigation.

The UNC leader says her colleague was well within his right to help a friend with transport. But does Mrs Persad-Bissessar have any moral authority to now denounce tax exemptions for motor-cars bought by public officers to travel along the roads of the country?

Of course, she, too, did access her motor-car tax exemptions, though she limited her road travel to the barest minimum.

Instead, she amassed some 636 hours of helicopter flight to all points of the country for herself and her family and friends at a cost to the taxpayer of more than $6 million. She now implores those same exploited taxpayers to disregard the proven trustworthiness and acuity of Dr Rowley.

Like the many right-thinking people of this country who respect the legitimacy and the limits of duly negotiated public service compensation packages, I am certain that John Doe and his counterparts will find a genuine comfort in the knowledge that the integrity of the administration they voted into office in August 2020 has not wavered.

The author is a veteran journalist

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