PETER’S MOTTO – BURY THEM ALIVE

The angry backlash from everywhere, comrades included, began immediately Peter Phillips introduced yet another Nicodemus tax package.

Remember February 2013? $16 billion tax package was announced late Friday evening before a long weekend while journalists were heading home? It’s that tax package that permits Peter to facetiously claim this bury-them-alive $6.7b tax package is the smallest in recent times. Can you believe the cheek?

At an April 22 press conference, an uncomfortable looking Peter blamed the media. When forced to respond to the January 8 headline specifically he said he had a “range of thoughts” and ought to have been more reticent in responding to a question about petrol taxes. I suppose the media should’ve read his mind and reported one of the unexpressed thoughts.

But it’s a FACT that The Gleaner quoted his January 8 comments as “No new taxes….” and “We don’t have plans for taxation. We have plans for tax reform, generally….” This refers to ALL TAXES. Yet, four months has passed and our Finance Minister has said not one word to contradict any of that January 8 Gleaner report. On January 8, similar reports appeared on the PNP’s Facebook page: “Minister of Finance….. Peter Phillips has asserted that he harbours no intention of imposing new taxes on Jamaicans in 2014. #NONEWTAXES” and the Observer. None included the words “petrol” or “petroleum products”. They were NEVER contradicted or corrected.

Peter waited 20 days before making an obfuscatory statement to Parliament (heard by few) in which he NEVER referred to the Gleaner report but began constructing an avenue of escape from his original promise. He said Government’s focus “…is on maintaining our basic fiscal targets including… the primary surplus target of 7 ½%, which may require adjustments…on the revenue or expenditure side”. Apparently content laying the groundwork for a future Nicodemus tax package, he again made NO EFFORT to “correct” the Gleaner report.

Analytical listening, watching or reading can lead independent analysts to only one inference namely Peter Phillips knew exactly what he was doing on Holy Thursday and how it would be perceived. If he didn’t make the original promise, surely he would’ve clarified or corrected the January 8 report? Why has he never bothered (including at the April 22 press conference where he blamed the question asked) to “correct” that January 8 report? Any independent analyst would be perfectly justified in inferring that it was because it required no correction.

Suppose he was asked “Minister, do you plan to increase petrol taxes?” By replying “We don’t have plans for taxation. We have plans for tax reform, generally….” he, as a highly intelligent public servant experienced in press interviews, would’ve deliberately expanded the question’s scope. Accordingly, one must conclude he fully intended to use that question to put the nation’s mind at rest “generally”. I believe Peter Phillips did make the general promise and did NOT, at that time, intend to limit HIS response to any particular tax.

Hopeton: You cheated
(U-Roy): (Did you hear that?)
And you lied
(Hear what de brother say)
About all
(You are wrong if you do that, baby)
 All that
(You should never do that)”

Recently, pathetic excuses for this immoral tax have been proselytized. On Sunday, Booklist Boyne exposed himself as a mascot for the Party-in-Power by his reluctance to make even the mildest critique of the Nicodemus taxation. He wrote:

….It’s most regrettable that $6.7 billion in new taxes have to be imposed. But if we’re not to borrow more……….., or if we’re not to cut even deeper into social services, how would we finance the Budget deficit? Apart from speaking glibly about ‘cutting corruption and waste’…., where are the taxes going to come from?

Oh dear. Independently, Damien King wrote on Twitter: “Don’t compare bank tax to no tax because the revenue must be raised. If u don’t like it, suggest a tax that’s more efficient & effective.” He’s also reported as asking if we’d prefer an income tax increase. That’s insulting, callous, aggravating and, most importantly, silly. Nobody wants an income tax increase. Are King (and Booklist) seriously asserting these are the only alternatives?

A simple repeal of the obsolete Rent Restriction Act would immediately save $14.5 million. Appointing one three member gaming commission employing single digit staff is enough to regulate all gambling and horse racing. Mark you, this would eliminate twenty-one political appointments to three separate commissions employing over 100 unnecessary staff.

Next up: my pet peeve. The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), a seminal public agency that performed spectacularly in the 60s/70s, needs no supplementing. Suddenly, in the 1980s, a Tourism Ministry was created. Then the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo). None of these taxpayer funded agencies owns a single hotel, tour-bus or taxi. The Tourism Ministry’s budget alone is $3.7 billion. Scrap it. Let’s pay for JTB alone.

Why’d we need NEPA; Town Planning Department; NCRA; NWC; WRA; and a National Irrigation Commission (NIC)? No fat there?

King dismissed Jamaicans’ outrage because the tax is small. Small? Jamaica reached its taxable limit years ago. That’s 100% of collectible taxes already imposed. Even one-tenth of 1% on top of that is the proverbial last straw.
But the hurt goes deeper. Unlike some academics, real people remember GCT at 7.5%. It’s now 16.5% (touched 17.5%). Give Government an inch…..

Don’t kill the goose
(no, no, no)
that lay the golden egg
(you can hear what the brother say)
For if you do
(You should never do a thing like that)
you’ll have to beg
(You are wrong! )

But the hurt goes even deeper. Government legislation, ostensibly to fight money laundering, forced citizens into the banks’ clutches. Employers wire salaries directly to bank accounts. Having herded us into the banks like cattle with foot and mouth disease, we’re easy pickings for this unjust bank tax. Banks love it because they now have an excuse to lump on yet another exorbitant administrative fee on top of the tax.

But the hurt goes even deeper. Peter Phillips, like his fictional alter ego Jethro Cockpeadle, knows he’s burying us alive under this tax but pretends it’s a levy on banks. But what’s the banks’ taxable activity? Can a bank be taxed when the taxable activity is undertaken by its customer and not the bank? I think not. So, in its anxiety for political capital, government imposed an illegal levy. We should instruct our banks NOT to deduct a red cent from our accounts until government admits reality and taxes us directly.

Tom Drunk
(uh hmm)
` but Tom no fool
(And that’s a fact )
He is smart
(Tell him ‘bout it brother; tell him ‘bout it!)
playing fool
(You can tell him ‘bout it one time)
Playing fool
(Tell him ‘bout it don’t be fooled)
to catch wise
(yea, yea, yea)
so use your head
(and that’s a fact)
and you’ll survive
(You can hear what the brother say)

Last Sunday, Booklist Boyne, discarding all pretence of independence, critiqued Audley Shaw’s budget presentation BEFORE Audley spoke. Effectively rolling the wicket for the PNP, he wrote: “Politically, if Audley has a choice between satisfying the intellectual tastes of columnists like me and appealing to the mass[es] who are definitely suffering…., it makes better sense to ignore me and others calling for hard, cold, rational analysis. Forget about whether there’s really any viable alternative to the [Government’s] broad economic framework……

Some bright people are using their heads; playing wise to catch fool. Peter lulls us into a sense of security in January. We are corralled in the banks. In April, the axe is swung. Lead PIP mascot suggests bawling is stupid and political? Why? Is every detail announced by Peter Phillips gospel?

Even accepting 7.5% primary surplus as a magic number (I don’t), there’re ways to achieve it without burying citizens alive with Nicodemus taxation. Countries don’t grow on paper. People grow countries. If you de-incentivise commercial activity and demoralize citizens, the only growth you’ll see is in the numbers fleeing Jamaica to take up residence in the cold north.

Don’t take my word for it. Glance at Twitter. The latest Tweet from unofficial national heroine, Olympics great Juliet Cuthbert: “Peter Phillips you have discouraged me from staying in my country. I think I made a mistake when I moved back”. Take heed.

Tom Drunk, penned by Hopeton Lewis featuring free-styling by U-Roy (appears on the original 1970 Treasure Isle label as “Hugh Roy”), was a humourous song about a happy-go-lucky rake whose peers repeatedly underestimated him. It shouldn’t be taken literally. It’s unique “point-counterpoint” style between Hopeton and U-Roy, which more resembled jazz musicians’ arrangements than singer/D.J. vocals, made it a classic.

Peace and Love

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