Women's Issues In Guyana

Why have rice farmers been given VAT relief but not poor women?

Posted in Commentary by wiig on September 9, 2007
Tags: , , ,

Stabroek News – September 9, 2007

Dear Editor,

Every single day, Red Thread monitors developments related to the Value-added Tax (VAT). Reading the papers for Friday, September 7, 2007, we saw in the Stabroek News and Chronicle that rice farmers are to benefit from a temporary measure that will zero-rate combines and tractor spare parts, and that this step is being taken because of the increased production costs the farmers are faced with mainly because of the rise in fertilizer and fuel prices along with the application of VAT on spare parts.

Whenever we as grassroots women raise our need to pay less VAT, the answer is that we need to be further educated about VAT. We are educated about VAT every single time we go into the shops and face more price rises. Now it seems that it is the government which needs education about VAT. Any honest person carrying on a business and who has an annual turnover of $10 million dollars (we are sure this would include people who can afford a combine) gets back any VAT they pay on their inputs, so how can they say that the application of VAT on spare parts is a problem for the rice farmers? We also read recently that the government spokesman on VAT said that VAT is good for business. Are rice farmers not carrying on business? Aren’t they registered for VAT? Perhaps the Commissioner General needs to check urgently.

We cannot accept that relief is right for those purchasing a combine for $30 milllion dollars but wrong for those of us who earn $30,000 a month and less.

Women constitute half the world’s population and perform nearly two-thirds of its work. We are the ones who carry the burden of bearing and rearing children and caring for the whole family. We are the ones who perform the jobs of first nurse and first educator of our children. We are the ones who have to stretch the few dollars we receive in order to provide for our children who are the future labour force of our country. We do this crucial work with very few facilities and not enough money, thus increasing our workload.

We do not want to make guesses about all the reasons why rice farmers would get a VAT ease and not poor women. We know that if we ask for an explanation we would hear that producing rice is production for the economy. Producing people is also production for the economy. We care for our families because we love them, but providing that care is work without which the economy would be at a standstill. When we call for a reduction in the VAT rate and zero-rating of more items, as mothers and housewives we are calling for a reduction in the prices of the goods and services we use in our homes to take care of our families. That caring work is our production; that is why one of Red Thread’s stated aims is to work for recognition of our caring work.

Once again, we call on the President, the Finance Minister and all other relevant authorities to seriously consider the burden that VAT is placing on grassroots women, and what this means for our children and families and therefore for the whole society and economy. More than anyone else, we need and deserve a VAT ease.

Women count, count women’s work!

Yours faithfully,

Nicola Marcus

For Red Thread

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