Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP is calling for the removal of all taxes on the sale of laptops and other Information Technology devices used for learning. This, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has pushed all classes online to reduce person to person contact.
The Opposition Leader issued the following statement:
In light of the fact that the previous Rowley Government scrapped the laptop programme, and failed to put anything in place to give students access to technology, measures should immediately be implemented to ease the burden on parents and guardians who now have to purchase devices to facilitate online learning.
In this regard, I call for the immediate removal of all taxes on computers, laptops, tablets, and related equipment in order to make it easier for parents and guardians to purchase laptops and other IT devices for their children to aid in their learning.
More than sixty thousand children, as per the Ministry of Education’s own assessment, are excluded from online learning because they have no access to devices.
The removal of the Online Purchase Tax, as well as the Value Added Tax, will automatically reduce the cost of purchasing these devices, making it more affordable given the circumstances. It is worth noting that these taxes were introduced by the Rowley regime in 2016, in spite of public disapproval.
Additionally, unequal access to the internet by many children within our society poses another challenge. In 2015 the PNM promised to implement nationwide Wi-Fi if elected. The PNM promised again in 2020 but we are yet to see any fruition to this promise.
The time to implement measures to increase Internet access is now, as it has become critical to students’ ability to participate in the new normal of online learning.
No child should be left behind.
I trust that good sense will prevail, and the Government will implement these small but impactful policy suggestions for the benefit of the thousands of children of Trinidad and Tobago.