VAT bill call

A Parliamentary committee yesterday asked the government to present new criteria for social welfare to consider doubling Value Added Tax (VAT) from five per cent to 10pc.

Parliament Speaker Fouzia Zainal yesterday received the government-drafted bill to double VAT.

She immediately referred it to the financial and economic affairs committee for review.

A meeting was held between the committee and Finance and National Economy Minister Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.

“We are in talks with the government to possibly increase social welfare spending so it could be put on the table when debating this bill,” said committee chairman Ahmed Al Salloom.

His vice-chairman Ahmed Al Amer told the GDN that a vote has not been taken whether to recommend or reject the bill.

“We have presented the minister with suggestions related to social welfare support for low-income Bahrainis,” said Mr Al Amer.

“There are multiple categories that we have asked the government to look into.

“We need further clarity on the issue and hopefully we will have it from the minister or whoever he deputises to decide on our recommendation before referring the bill for full-house debate on Wednesday.”

Committee member Mahmood Al Bahrani confirmed to the GDN that no vote has been taken despite an official statement by Parliament stating that a vote was held. “No, we didn’t vote on the bill because without higher social welfare we are just putting low-income Bahrainis under more financial burden should VAT be doubled,” said Mr Al Bahrani.

“Those earning BD1,000 and more could manage the double VAT, but crushing the less fortunate would just cause harm.”

Second vice-chairman Ali Al Zayed said MPs didn’t need to rush the legislation.

“We have all the time to review the legislation, which the government has not referred with an ‘urgent’ tag that forces us to vote on it within 14 days,” said Mr Al Zayed.

“The committee concerned will listen to what the government has to say on why it is necessary and accordingly give MPs an insight to build up their opinion prior to the vote.”

VAT is amongst the five-pillar strategy to achieve economic recovery post Covid-19. Original plans aim to have it introduced on January 1, 2022 pending Parliament and Shura Council approval.

The committee has also met Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Alzayani to discuss the industrial masterplan 2022-2026.

Parliament’s general-secretariat, headed by Ms Zainal, held an urgent extraordinary meeting last night to debate the VAT bill.

Mr Al Salloom presented an urgent official request to increase social welfare and the anti-inflation allowance as a prerequisite for VAT.

Ms Zainal forwarded the request urgently to the government.

“We back the Fiscal Balancing Programme and Economic Recovery Plan and achieving them should come through a joint vision,” said a joint statement issued by the general-secretariat. The nation and public top our interest.”

Present were first vice-chairman Abdulnabi Salman and committee chairmen.




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