Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why are people upset about the withdrawal tax?

As I'm sure we are all aware of by now, the Government of Jamaica is planning to introduce a new levy on withdrawals. I won't go into the details, but the full paper can be found here (PDF).

Many supporters of the tax are focusing on the dollar amount of the tax, declaring that "it's just $1" and they seem to be surprised at the outrage being voiced throughout the country for such a small amount.

I don't think that the supporters really understand the reasons for the outrage. I think that there's one main reason.

PAYE earners feel overburdened.

After paying 31% in statutory deductions, they pay another 16% to 25% in GCT, which is an effective tax rate of 40%+. On top of that, bank fees and low interest rates mean that it likely costs them more to keep the money in the bank than they'll make in interest. Now they're being asked to shoulder another, albeit relatively small, tax just to withdraw money.

All this while there's an apparent lack of will to go after persons and companies who are suspected of dodging taxes in a meaningful way. We have yet to see the materialization of the oft-promised tax reforms which would make it harder to avoid taxes, even as more and more taxes and costs are heaped upon compliant citizens. Things like 11 companies receiving import waivers valued at $4.2 billion, even while owing $1.2 billion in back taxes, and then asking the public to pay $2.25 billion in a new tax on withdrawals to cover a tax revenue deficit should rightly cause outrage.

So, what can we do? Jamaica is the home of the nine-day wonder, but this time can be different. We can make our voices heard in a number of ways:

  • Demand accountability from your MP - write letters/emails to them asking them to support a call for the rollback of the withdrawal tax and a renewed thrust to collect taxes from the delinquent 
  • Sign the online petitions that are being circulated - I know of two, here and here.
  • Write letters to the editor of the newspapers outlining your concerns. 
  • VOTE! Make sure that you're registered to vote and that you exercise your right in local and general elections.

In the words of Cyril Connolly, "slums may well be breeding-grounds of crime, but middle-class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium." It's time to get rid of the apathy.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Another record year

"The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing." 
Edmund Burke

Jamaica seems to have become the perfect example of Burke's quote.There were (according to police figures) 1,680 murders last year, the highest number ever recorded in Jamaica.

One thousand, six hundred and eighty. That's two giant Airbus A380s chock full of people. That's a Coaster and a Hiace full of people killed each week. That's a car load of people murdered every day. That's unacceptable.

The police force has many shortcomings, which I've pointed out on several occasions and which most, if not all, of us see very regularly, but the members of the JCF are not the "good men" in Burke's quote. That dubious honour belongs to all of us who, through our silence and apathy, allow criminals to be brazen enough to shoot a woman in Half-way-tree in the middle of the day or to invade a party, shoot somebody 30 times and torch 6 houses.

Evil is flourishing because Jamaicans of all classes and creeds simply look the other way. Whether it's rampaging gunmen or someone breaking in to the house next door, we have allowed ourselves to be paralyzed by fear and this has, in turn, impacted the ability of the JCF to investigate and solve crimes. No  police force in the world, no matter how much CSI technology they employ, can effectively combat crime without the cooperation of citizens.

There are those who say that the reason for the lack of cooperation is that fact that people are afraid that the very same policemen who the information is passed along to are in league with the criminals. This collusion may be true, as we've seen in recent cases, but there are anonymous avenues such as Crime Stop and Operation Kingfish through which information can be passed on to the police.

As I pointed out in a previous post, Jamaica is a country of contradictions. We berate the JCF and the Minister of National Security for the high murder rate, but are unwilling to do our part to help bring it under control. The root of the murder problem isn't violent lyrics or video games or the incompetence of the JCF or politicians, it's us. It's the "informer" stigma we cling to and the "me nuh business" attitude which we have towards gang members and murderers.  Until we good men decide to do something, evil will continue to flourish and we'll continue to break records.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Resolutions Politicians Should Make (And Keep) In 2010 and Beyond

Have consistent positions on issues
A tax or policy that's okay when you were/are in power doesn't magically become evil when you aren't, and vice versa. This applies to things like gas taxes, borrowing money from the NHT and garrison constituencies.

Country first
Vote according to your conscience, not whatever the party line is. If you agree with a Government bill when you're in Opposition then vote for it. If members of your party aren't performing then replace them with people who will. Party-line voting helped to get the country into the hole it's in, it sure as hell won't help get it out.

Attend all sessions of Parliament/Senate/Committees
Because it's your damn job.

Stop wasting time in those sessions
The country doesn't want to see or hear grown men and women bickering about who called who what name when the country is rushing headlong towards becoming a failed state. Grow the fuck up. This isn't high school.

Stop thinking that the country is stupid
We all know when you're bullshitting us, whether it's about why you fired the governor of the BOJ or the real reason you want to protest against new taxes. Just stop. Transparency (when coupled with intelligent decision making) will get you far more support and respect than spin.

Make the right decisions, even if that decision means losing political capital
There are decisions which have to be made by people on both sides of the political divide which will prove to be unpopular with their respective parties and party donors but which need to be made for Jamaica to make any significant progress.

Any other resolutions you'd like to see politicians make (and keep)?