Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams has questioned the need by Government to hike the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) to ten per cent.
Speaking in the Senate during debate on the Amendment of the National Social Responsibility Levy Bill 2017 he took issue with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s recent announcement in the House of Assembly that since July the levy had raised $50 million.
“It is greed that keeps this levy at the level it is at,” Abraham argued while recalling that when the tax on the customs value of imported and locally produced goods was first introduced last year it was expected to enhance the operations of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and purchase trucks for the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA).
However, he expressed concern that the funds were not used for the stated purpose, saying he had not heard of any tangible benefits to the operations of either the QEH or the SSA.
“The two per cent levy was supposed to buy trucks for the SSA. The SSA has not bought a tyre far less a truck. If the initial funds did not go to the purpose for which it was raised, then I question what is the real purpose,” Abrahams said.
“ How was that $50 million spent? None of that has gone to the QEH . . . none of the $50 million has gone to the stated purposes. This is more money to throw away. I am sure that every cent of that $50 million has already been spent,” the Opposition spokesman added.
With elections around the corner, Abraham went further to point out that “we had issues during the last general elections where there was a lot of talk about vote buying
. . . about corruption in Government over the last couple of years.
“It is all about the place with people discussing it,” he said, while calling for greater transparency and for Government to say precisely how the NSRL funds were being spent.