Editorial : Waive VIT for commercial vehicles because of COVID-19

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The Trade Union Congress (TUC), in a document titled ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Enterprises, Employment and Livelihoods in Ghana, Some Proposed Mitigating Measures’, is making a case for commercial transport owners and drivers in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TUC is asking government to waive the Vehicle Income Tax (VIT) as a measure to cushion COVID-19’s impact on commercial transport owners and drivers.

The umbrella-body for 18 affiliate unions in the country believes a total or partial waiver for a period would go a long way to lessen impacts of the virus on their lives as a result of huge losses they are incurring due to reduction in passenger numbers as required by the social distancing protocol.

With hindsight, the TUC has a solid point because taxi and ‘tro-tro’ (mini-bus) drivers are required to take fewer passengers than they are used to and still charge the same fares. They are making critical sacrifices to stem spread of the deadly virus, and their efforts also need to be recognised.

“These drivers and their owners have paid the Vehicle Income Tax (VIT) for years. It is time for government to come to their aid during this crisis. The Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) of Trades Union Congress can play a key role by helping government determine the potential losses and how they should be compensated,” the TUC notes.

Frontline health workers have been given some incentives; servicemen who ensured the 14-day lockdown was adhered to were also given compensatory packages, and hence we see no reason why drivers and commercial vehicle owners, who have religiously paid their income tax, should be made to lick their wounds and go through the inconvenience of making minimal returns without any reprieve.

However, an Industrial Relations Officer of the Greater Accra branch of the GPRTU, Abass Ibrahim Moro, agrees in principle but believes the benefit will be skewed in favour of vehicle owners – hence the need to ensure drivers also receive some benefit.

Currently, most commercial vehicles are operating below capacity because of the restrictions, and it is important that they are rewarded. Struggling businesses have received a stimulus package to cushion them from the adverse effects of COVID-19; and undeniably, commercial vehicles have played a crucial role during the on-going pandemic.

Some recognition is therefore not out of order. Even if it is a subsidy of petrol prices, it would be welcome.

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