Daily Express Editorial
The Government’s decision to remove VAT from bottled water and juice of unspecified packaging is incomprehensible, given that water and juice sold in plastic bottles are luxuries for many on the economic margin and environmentally disastrous.
Just a few weeks ago, the scope of the problem was blatant when flood waters rushing down from the St Ann’s hills swept through the city, dumping massive loads of single-use plastic bottles onto East Port of Spain and South Quay. Elsewhere, carelessly discarded plastic water bottles choke river courses, canals and drains, and disrupt the natural flow of water out to the sea. Plastic bottles are also a nightmare problem at the nation’s landfills where, according to the experts, each bottle can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
Trinidad and Tobago cannot be serious about pursuing a ­climate change agenda and still continue to give the plastic bottled water industry the benefit of a tax break. For, make no mistake about it, the removal of VAT on bottled water makes it cheaper and therefore more attractive to the consumer. Given the obvious contradiction between this measure and the environmental agenda to which the Government claims to subscribe, we look forward to hearing what Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis has to say about the removal of VAT on bottled water when she joins the budget debate.
The Government has so far shown a complete lack of muscle and commitment in dealing with the environmental impact of the beverage industry’s operations. There can be no good explanation for why the Beverage Container Bill 2012 is yet to see the light of day. It has been 21 years since the country decided that it was necessary to legislate against plastic bottle pollution. It took 12 years to draft the law which has now been sitting around for nine years.
When this newspaper checked on the bill’s progress in ­August, in the immediate aftermath of the floods in Port of Spain, we were told that the Ministry of Public Utilities was simplifying the bill for presentation in September. That month has come and gone without any reference to it. Instead, the Government has gone in the other direction by removing VAT on bottled water and juice.
Other items on Minister Imbert’s new VAT-free list are also mystifying in the context of the Ministry of Health’s increasingly vociferous advocacy of healthier eating. With Covid-19 bringing to the fore the danger of T&T’s high rate of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer, the Ministry of Health has been pounding the message of healthier eating.
In the midst of this comes the Minister of Finance to make sugars and processed food cheaper and, therefore, more available to the poor. The fact that several of his selected items were already VAT-free suggests a lack of attention to finding imaginative ways to ease the pressure on the poor with some standard of quality nutrition.


The release of an anonymous voice note reporting mayhem in Port of Spain on Sunday, followed by Monday’s explosion of a device crudely built with firecrackers, suggests a calculated attempt to destabilise the population at a time when there is no Commissioner on Police in office.

I can only imagine being a diehard supporter and witnessing this political calamity occurring right before your eyes. Do you turn a blind eye, or do you face the veracity?

This is a letter to the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).

Madam President, you and your colleagues at TTUTA have failed your members—the teachers. You seem to be more concerned with the image of your office and the brand that is TTUTA, instead of the well-being of your teachers.

“The future of our nation is in our children’s school bags.”

—Dr Eric Williams

What does it say for the future of our nation that our children’s school bags have been empty for the past 19 months? We all know education is arguably the primary indicator for social, economic and national development in any country.

TWO news items carried on different pages in the last edition of the Sunday Express combined to topple an intention to dedicate today’s agenda to the abolitionist cause.

It seems that the Ministry of Agriculture and, by extension, the Government of the day, has finally come to realise that farming, to a great extent, is the one sector to save us from a growing food import bill and, indeed, starvation.