St. George’s, November 9, 2012 – The head of the powerful Technical and Allied Workers’ Union (TAWU) insists that government associates have been testing a tax idea, and scoffs at the notion that he’s simply on an attack against the ruling administration.
Chester Humphrey, President General of TAWU, made the remarks after Information Minister Glen Noel accused him of using the union to attack Aaron Moses and others affiliated to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.
“I am not perturbed about the comments,’’ Humphrey said. “The questions that need to be asked are whether the attacks are legitimate and whether they are true.’’
Noel, who is a government senator and also NDC Public Relations Officer, told a local television station Thursday night that Humphrey is “on a frolic’’ and has been using TAWU as a “bastion for all of the other elements in the struggle against the government.’’
The exchange between Noel and Humphrey, who is the labour representative in the senate, is the latest episode in a national debate about the performance and direction of the NDC and the government.
The situation has resulted in resignations from government, and Humphrey and nine others were expelled from the NDC at its September 30 annual convention.
With the closure of some businesses and the loss of hundreds of jobs, Humphrey has been calling for the reconvening of parliament for what he describes as an emergency situation facing the country.
He has also condemned what he claims to be plans by government to lower the personal income tax (PIT) threshold, which now applies only to Grenadians earning EC$60,000 or more per year.
Humphrey fingered Aaron Moses as among those selling the idea of lowering personal income tax.
“Moses is not doing this in a vacuum,’’ Humphrey said, pointing out that William Joseph, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, has been “speaking the same language.’’
However, Noel has come to the defence of Moses, who has served as policy advisor to Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
Moses, now head of the World Bank-sponsored Grenada Public Sector Reform Project, has not been advocating for government on the PIT issue, Noel said.
“Aaron Moses was making an analysis of the current situation in Grenada and making some comparisons with the other Eastern Caribbean islands,’’ Noel told MTV News. “He was just drawing references and not necessarily making a policy statement, that the government is contemplating it.’’
Noel said government is not now thinking about reducing the PIT.
“I don’t know what the future will be but we just implemented VAT which makes the tax regime much more simple,’’ said Noel.
“Many countries have the same VAT and they have income tax. So, Grenadians are not the most taxed people in the world.’’
Humphrey maintains that Moses was not just making passing comments.
“I’ve exposed them and their plans,’’ said Humphrey. “They are preparing the country for a new tax regime but are cowards, fearful of coming out and saying that plainly. They are a parasitic technocracy.’’
Humphrey and Noel were on the same side when the NDC won 11 of 15 seats in general elections in 2008.
The government, which soon will be seeking reelection, is incapable of rescuing the struggling economy, Humphrey charged.
Grenada has had “the largest chunk of unemployment’’ under Nazim Burke’s tenure as finance minister, he added.
“The social and economic situation,’’ said Humphrey, “is worse than when he took over as finance minister; and that’s after he announced the recession is over.’’