Nothing was happening around the domino table that particular Saturday. Gene Autry, The Beast and I were lazing around unable to raise a fourth, when Haemorrhoid showed up.

We still didn’t have a domino game as Haemorrhoid wasn’t a player but the boring atmosphere immediately brightened. Regular readers should remember Ernest H Flower (a.k.a. “Haemorrhoid”) who earned his nickname with his constant complaints about “piles and piles of work” on his desk. Haemorrhoid was an excellent, compulsive raconteur who needed no excuse to spontaneously break out one of his famous shaggy dog tales.

“Today” he began with an eerie tone, “I want to introduce you to Jethro Cockpeadle the eldest son of Jeb and Martha Cockpeadle. In the 1960s, the Cockpeadles were long time residents of the deep rural Tennessee hills. They were ostensibly hillside farmers but, in reality, Jeb manufactured Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine from a still hidden in the woods. Jethro married his first cousin Irma (on his mother’s side, of course) and was never seen in public without his pet pig and a pair of sturdy water boots near at hand. These were rough and ready hillbillys with a strong Pentecostal background and fervent beliefs regarding their place in God’s world as promised in the Old Testament and from the pulpit.

Jethro doubled as the County’s Deputy Sheriff. One Sunday morning, he was on duty at the Sheriff’s office when a call came in reporting a bad accident. A bus filled with black churchgoers from a nearby Baptist church ran off a cliff on its return from an outing. Reportedly, there were several injuries. The Sheriff sent Jethro to investigate. Jethro didn’t return until 9.30 p.m. sweating profusely. “What happened?” the Sheriff enquired.

“Well Shurruf” drawled Jethro, “it was a madhouse out there. People screaming and shouting for God an’ all. Anyway, there was no way to transport the dead so we had to bury them on the spot.”

“How many casualties?” asked a concerned Sheriff.

“Shurruf’ Jethro replied casually “Some of ‘em claimed they wasn’t dead. But you know how them nogs lie. I buried their black asses anyway!”

For some reason, that Saturday afternoon shaggy dog tale by Haemorrhoid flashed across my mind as I watched and listened to Peter Phillips opening the 2014/15 budget debate. I remember all too well January 8, 2014, when, under a banner headline Big relief – No new taxes, says Phillips; reform, cutting debt on main agenda, the Gleaner quoted Peter Phillips thusly: “We don’t have plans for taxation. We have plans for tax reform, generally”.

The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

By January 28, Peter Phillips was saying in a Statement to Parliament widely hidden from public view: “The focus of government going forward is on maintaining our basic fiscal targets including, more specifically, the primary surplus target of 7 1/2 per cent, which may require adjustments either on the revenue or expenditure side

Nobody noticed. We all remembered “Tax reform NOT taxation”

By April 17, when the budget was unveiled, the same Peter Phillips unapologetically said “Mr. Speaker, history affords no example of an economy that has underperformed as long as [Jamaica’s] being restored to financial health….without a period of sacrifice and difficulty” before glibly introducing $6.7 billion of new taxes.

Has Government petitioned the Oxford English dictionary to redefine “new” as “whatever we say it is”?

In that January 28 Statement to Parliament, Peter Phillips emphasized (in bold font and block capitals): “LET ME STATE HOWEVER THAT IT IS NOT THE INTENTION OF GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE THE REVENUE FROM PETROLEUM PRODUCTS.” But, on April 17, he announced that an additional $1.2 billion would flow into the Consolidated Fund due to a re-direction of SCT on petrol from the Road Maintenance Fund (RMF). So, petrol taxes previously unavailable to Government will now be chucked into the Consolidated Fund with all other taxes. Phillips tried to shuffle up the cards with an obfuscatory promise that the funds would be used to repay Chinese debt incurred for road improvements.

No, Peter, we’re not stupid. This is exactly what the Finance Minister said “in its commitment to prudent debt management, the GOJ is seeking to provide for consolidated debt servicing through the central government budget. The amounts that would’ve been allocated to the RMF WILL BE HELD BY THE GOJ AND ONE SINGLE DEBT PAYMENT MADE in respect of the outstanding debts to China.”

Please note the Minister does NOT say the petroleum taxes will be dedicated for pay down on the Chinese debts or will be paid directly to China. The taxes will be “held by the GOJ” AND “one single payment” made to China. From where? How many payments were made at one time in the past? I’ll bet any amount of money against a chocolate covered peanut that these petrol taxes will be rinsed (used to pay government salaries etc) and , when China debt payments are due, GOJ will scramble around to try to pay from somewhere like maybe the another illegal NHT raid.

It became more eerie. Peter had proposed a modified Assets Tax regime for regulated companies in his 2012/13 Budget Presentation at a rate of 0.2% of the value of the assets. After lobbying efforts by these companies, the rate was revised to 0.14%. On April 17, that tax was increased to 0.25% which is more than he wanted in the first place.
Insurance premiums are going up because the tax on premiums has been increased to 5.5% across the board. Egregiously, we’ll pay more to protect ourselves against paying more.

Then, with citizens curled up in foetal positions from the body blows already delivered, Peter turned his attention to Banks and imposed an ad valorem tax on all transfers of funds to third parties. This after his government had undertaken, by way of Parliamentary committee, an investigation into exorbitant bank fees. He was careful to emphasize that this was a new tax on banks, not customers. Right. At the same time that Jamaicans swallowed that particular assurance whole, a herd of pigs was spotted taking off from the Norman Manley airport.

Jamaicans passed their taxable limit years ago. These new taxes can’t be paid. Our children have no hope. There are no jobs for them upon graduating with skilled degrees. Unemployment stats quoted by the Minister are sick jokes. We, who feel it, know it. Unless you’re expert at cleaning gullies or driving jeeps, you’ll not find work. Persons in good jobs are finding employers, with the best wills in the world, can’t meet regular payroll payments. But these employees can’t leave because they know the alternative is joblessness. At least, in their current situation, someone owes them a salary.

Entrepreneurship is stymied by crushing taxation. Initiative is blocked by bureaucratic red tape wielded by petty, entrenched civil servants whose sole concern is supplementing their meagre, frozen salaries. These de-motivated public servants’ frozen salaries are all wired to bank accounts from which they must withdraw cash to live. Those withdrawals are now subject to ad valorem tax. The result: automatic (or is it automated?) pay cuts.

The good news is Peter Phillips has a vision. It’s a vision of a nation built on the payment of every dollar of external debt on time; and the broken backs of bankrupted citizens, castrated by hopelessness and callously insulted by Ministers driving brand new SUVs and travelling to World Cup Football and Olympics. Nobody lied but Peter insists on burying our black, white, Chinese, Indian and mixed-race asses under a mountain of new taxes anyway.

Meanwhile, the reality is that, every day in every way, Jamaicans with skills are leaving Jamaica in droves. Their vision is blocked by greedy multilaterals rapaciously collecting 45% of our budget, profligate politicians refusing to cut cabinet size or expenditure on personal luxuries; and chronic unemployment sapping their spirits.

When one is sitting high in an SUV, splashing muddy water on persons waiting interminably for a bus painted yellow, one’s vision of the way forward is 20/20. The mud in our eyes and the height and size of the SUVs tend to add to our vision difficulties. You keep your IMF imposed vision, Peter. We want a visa to Canada.

Peace and Love


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