Budget 2017The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) on Thursday proposed to Government, through engagements with the Finance Ministry, that the income tax threshold be increased to $70,000, while the personal income tax rate be reduced to 25 per cent.Junior Finance MinisterJaipaul SharmaOn Thursday, Minister within the Finance Ministry, Jaipaul Sharma met with the union on issues relating to the 2017 National Budget, where a number of measures were proposed by the treasurer of the FITUG Seepaul Narine.An income tax threshold of at least $70,000 monthly which would be up from $50,000 currently was proposed, and that the personal income tax rate be 25 per cent rather than 30 per cent.“FITUG also sought to have the promised reduction in the rate of VAT be reflected in the 2017 Budget. To bring relief to families, especially with children, FITUG advised the Minister to once again make provision for tax relief for spouses and children under age 16,” said a statement from FITUG.Other proposals included an increased minimum wage for workers and continued Government support for the sugar industry.Taking into account that when the National Minimum Wage was introduced in 2013 it was about 85 per cent of the Public Sector minimum wage, the Federation suggested that the National Minimum Wage be set to 85 per cent of the prevailing Public Sector Minimum Wage. It also proposed that that the sectorial minimum wages, last adjusted in 2012, be adjusted once again.On sugar, FITUG called on the Government to adopt the Sugar Commission of Inquiry (CoI) recommendation to have the Skeldon Co-Generation Plant returned to GuySuCo and a revised Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) be put in place.Additionally, the Federation proposed that the industry’s diversification be furthered through; other co-generation plants, the construction of a refinery to take advantage ofthe Caricom market demand, and the establishment of a distillery in Berbice.seepaul narine“The diversification initiatives FITUG advised could be pursued following discussions with various stakeholders, including the respective Trade Unions in the industry. FITUG also called on the Government to reverse its decision to close Wales Sugar Estate in view of the negative impact the closure will have on the economy and on the affected workers and their families, among others,” the statement indicated.Meanwhile, the unions and the Minister discussed bringing the qualification for Old Age pension to begin at 50 per cent of the Public Sector Minimum Wage. “With respect to NIS, old age pensions, FITUG proposed that the increases in pensions be linked to the annual Public Sector wage rise as was the practice in the past.”FITUG also recommended that the Government consider significant salary increases for all Government employees including those employed by semi-autonomous agencies, State-owned companies and public corporations.Additionally, FITUG suggested that the Government consider compiling and publishing reports on the impact and performance of various foreign investment projects in an effort to determine whether the Guyanese people are receiving the best possible returns.Sharma acknowledged FITUG’s proposals and assured them that the proposals would be taken into consideration by the budgetary team in the process of the Budget formulation.“FITUG hopes that unlike the previous consultations the Minister had with FITUG on his Budgets, that we will see some of our proposals reflected in this Budget in the making,” the statement said.