I have been trying so very hard to avoid any discussions or topics relating to Jamaican politics without any success. Every time I turn someone is there asking me, “So what do you think of so and so?” The latest is not a question from someone but a phrase uttered by our Finance Minister Dr. Peter Phillips in defending the new Tax Measures proposed on February 12, 2013. I get to understand that these increases in Stamp Duty, Transfer Tax, Customs Fee etc. are to assist in paying billion dollar debts due to the Jamaica Public Service Company, National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) for garbage collection and the ‘beautification of our country’ as well as other entities that keep our country, or what’s left of it, functioning. The major reason though is that these revenue measures are being taken to support the achievement of the Primary Balance target of 7.5% of GDP that has been agreed to with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Where do I begin. It’s like a maze. You’re following the path you think is the right one only to hit a wall and another and another and another. I am no politician but is it that hard to practice good housekeeping? Is it so hard to pay your bill when you receive it? I have a JPS account and I receive a bill every month. Sometimes it’s late. If that bill isn’t paid within five (5) days after the due date my electricity WILL be disconnected and trust me it has happened. Is this the way it is between the Jamaica Public Service and the Government? Is it the same between the NSWMA and the Government? If so why have we incurred a billion debt as it relates to these entities? Why haven’t the bills being paid on a monthly basis so as not to incur this ‘debt’.
Speaking of the NSWMA, there are signs along roadways that read ‘Your tax dollars at work helping in the beautification of your country’ with bushes and shrubs obscuring the writings and the paint job in a deplorable state. Talk about irony. Dilapidated buildings (mostly government buildings) are strewn all over the country’s sidewalks housing rodents (rats), criminals and whatever else yet they pay high costs to rent other buildings. I can remember some years ago there were talks of bulldozing said buildings or refurbishing some of them especially in the downtown area. But that’s just what it was, TALK.
The Prime Minister, The Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller and Dr. Phillips are urging Jamaicans including the private sector to rally around the country in this our time of distress. Isn’t that what we all have been doing for the past omteen years? Haven’t we been paying to you Caesar what is due to you? The private sector has been doing tremendous things for our schools, inner city communities, churches, hospitals and for our precious children. What have you done for us Caesar? What have you been doing for us Caesar? Put us in more debt. Each year the debt margin grows bigger and bigger with no absolute light at the end of the tunnel. So what did you do with the $340 mil that you collected from the Traffic Ticket Amnesty this past January? What have you been doing with the taxes you collect each month, each year why we have such a large debt margin?
It cannot be that the answer to meeting IMF requirements is to increase taxes or add new ones every time we reach this crossroad. The right thing to do is to clean house.
- Regulate and amend antiquated laws in keeping with global modernisation and be iron-fisted in seeing to it that citizens adhere to these laws without initiating anarchy.
- Efficiency is key to running any business and that is lacking in every government run agency in this country, the Tax Administration Department, the Customs Department, the Courts, the Security sector, everywhere.
- Make education of the populace a number one priority. Affordability will play a vital part in this.
- Red Tape Bureaucracy has hindered many aspiring and talented entrepreneurs both locally and abroad from starting up businesses in Jamaica.
- Everything has a chain reaction so if there is regulation of laws, efficiency and adherence by the citizens then all’s well that ends well. Job creation and job security would improve. Education would be much more attainable. There would be a decline in lawlessness. Investors would gladly plant their roots here and the country would be get a well-deserved face lift.
The plan is not to continue this ignominious legacy that we have inherited but to improve on it, make it worth living in this country again. So yes Dr. Phillips, lets be realistic and stamp out corruption once and for all, fix the country’s flaws, stop the talking and actually DO something. Jamaicans are ready, we have rallied and have been waiting for the change which ultimately starts with you.