Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Ticked off by taxes

Published:Tuesday | March 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM

"I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."

- Winston S. Churchill

 

Respect due, but if the minister of finance tells me to brace one more time, a going to rude to him. After a religiously passionate preamble, Peter Phillips dropped a bombshell last Thursday in Parliament. In case you missed it, standard GCT charges are to be imposed on portions of household light bills come April 1, and the gas tax is to increase by $7 come tomorrow.

History tells us that, once gas goes up, so does everything else (including light bills). Look out for the sure request by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company for a fare increase. Not only will it now cost more to fill your tank, but increased transportation and production costs faced by manufacturers will be passed on to consumers. Brace.

My memory lasts more than nine days. I remember in November of 2011, the then prime minister-hopeful of Jamaica, lured the flock with the promise of GCT-free light bills. So much for keeping that promise.

I feel there must be an error in the finance minister's job description, as he understands it. Somewhere in there, I believe he thinks it says "tax the people 'til they bleed". If this isn't hold down and tek, I don't know what is. I'm annoyed by the absence of imagination. Why is it that the first and only solution presented every single budget read is a new or heftier tax?

If, as a business owner, I hired a general manager and charged him with raising more money for the company, and that general manager came back to me and said, "OK, boss, the strategy I have come up with is to take away your money and give you back less than I took ... in kind", I'd fire him so fast, his head would spin.

Government's handling of the country's affairs is no different. The minister of finance's primary job is not to tax me. Why am I bracing ... again? So the government can pass some International Monetary Fund (IMF) test? When you get 'A-plus' from the IMF and 'F' from the Jamaicans who voted you in (or those who inherited you by default), are you doing your job?

 

Performance evaluation

 

Actually, there is something from corporate that I strongly believe should be implemented in government. I say we introduce formal appraisals and performance incentives for politicians.

I say, pay our politicians a basic salary; the kind you and I live on; the kind teachers and nurses and the police stretch every month, and then implement a provision for them to earn the cushy salary and perks on condition that they achieve.

Each member would prioritise their top five measurable core accomplishments for the year and declare them to the nation annually. Examples: Education - 50 per cent passes in CSEC Math and English; Water - desilting of the Mona Reservoir; Youth and Culture - implementation of all Armadale recommendations (you get the idea).

Sure, a wishy-washy attempt is made at pronouncements at the budget debate, but nobody holds the ministers or those who report to them accountable when the targets are missed (as they often are).

In my head, members of the public would make suggestions to the ministry office about what we want your strategic objective for the year to be, and, that way, you truly serve our interest and not set an agenda for us that we couldn't care less about.

Do what you declare you would and you get your bonus ... because you earned it. Don't meet your targets, and you live in the world you created just like the rest of us. I think that's fair.

And then the governor general could do the prime minister's appraisal. Judge her not only on her declared objectives, but also the achieved (or failed) targets of her members.

Dear Government, the rest of us live in the real world; with real repercussions for non-performance. My salary is finite. And if you tax me more, something has got to give, and if you keep it up, it will be you.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.