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The society steps up

In keeping with the deliverables of the CSOs4GoodGov project, the coalition of NGO's under the lead of United Way TT has drafted a paper, which seeks to uplift the legal standing and fiscal profiles of civil society organisations. It is an argument in early days obviously, but the problems under discussion are as old as hunger, dating as far back as only an elephant might remember. The download is here, but Environment Tobago as a coalition member takes this as an opportunity to dissect the United Way led document, and to bring it home to the Tobago community, where many groups still see themselves as less than equal in the societal structure.

You don't have a PDF plugin, but you can download the draft Legal and Fiscal position paper as a PDF file.

The CSOs4GoodGov Legal and Fiscal Advocacy Paper takes time upfront to describe the legal framework non-profits are subject to, with a first person perspective of the troubles that attends those who do decide to go 'legit' - which is a hard thing to achieve in a formal setting such as this. It identifies without quibbling the discrepancies which exist between the two key statutes which govern civil society organisations, emphasising in the process a main beef fowarded by the paper - silos of authority.

Some time was spent to identify the contribution of money to the local economy by way of 'spend' - a figure of $300mil was mentioned. A key observation there was the effect - still unknown, of the benefits CSOs brings to Trinidad and Tobago. Without actually saying it, the premise is made 'civicus' is not the absolute dependant that is oft made out to be.

The CSO4GoodGov Legal and Fiscal Advocacy paper does not stop at establishing the baseline of civil society presence. It projects the additional burdens CSOs will face as new laws come in to further secure the sector - purportedly used by some as vehicle for advancing terrorism. In the end it moves to suggest quite definitely, three ways in which the old, the untenable and the unbearable should be fixed.

First is the enabling of e-registration for NPOs. The argument has merit. Time and money (and gas) is a huge variable that no one these days - much less fragile groups pushing usually unpopular causes, can afford. Second is the provisioning of a new company type (status) - which in intent and purpose will 'correct' market failures in the provision of important goods and services and from the awareness that social problems cannot be solved by traditional NPOs or philanthropy'. Third is the logical extension of the enabling theme; taxation law need to reflect that non-profits do not need to pay taxes. Finally, number four recommends the placement of a regulator with authority for scrutiny and enforcement of the civil society sector.

In summary however, the manages CSOs4GoodGov Legal and Fiscal Advocacy paper is an effort to lift all ships - in a manner of speaking. Therefore anyone who wishes to add something, anything, please make the necessary effort.

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