Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Committed to Jamaica?

Published:Sunday | December 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica is a vibrant democracy. We are one of only 26 countries that have changed government by the ballot and never the bullet. The country has distinctive things to offer to the world and, in some respects, we offer much more than expected.

In track and field sport events, we are record holders, dominant stars, and the envy of many of our international contemporaries. We lead in culture, unique culinary treats, music and universal hospitality. The climatic conditions that prevail on this island are as near to perfect as can be desired.

Yet with all this, we have so many flaws and defects.

The defects include out-of-control crime, a health-care system that leaves much to be desired, indiscipline on the roads that produces weapons of mass destruction, and an education system that would be better labelled warehousing than scholarship.

One must therefore put all of this in the mix to determine who is wholeheartedly committed to Jamaica or engaged in activity, that at its core, is exploitative. Anecdotally, it is apparent that many of those who posture as leaders in the society are phoney.

If you look at a current trend in society, one could make the link that only lip service is paid to this country. Large numbers of persons maximise the profits from their enterprises, but do not live in Jamaica. Miami is still really Kingston 21.

Enter any prominent bank in South Florida at this time of the year and you will find all the personalities there: members of parliament, prominent persons in the private sector, and the decision-makers who are constantly lobbying the government of the day. Is this a matter of divided loyalty, economic necessity, or, as I suspect, an unspoken statement about the commitment to Jamaica.

Take a look at the transfer-pricing regime that has been passed. Let me make reference to Gleaner editorial of December 13, 2015: "In Jamaica's case, the guidelines for firms to enter TPAs (transfer-pricing arrangements) with the tax authorities are, on the face of it, largely typical and ought not to impose any significant new burdens on affected firms, which should have established transfer-pricing methodologies for their various business segments and available for inspection by the authorities in the event of an audit - which could happen even without the new regime."

"Importantly, the new regime does not impose a new tax, but will provide the opportunity to firms to explain their transfer-pricing methodologies," but listening to the parliamentary debate, opposition members promise to repeal the tax at the first available opportunity. Jamaica be damned.

When I read the editorial of the other daily of December 20, 2015, it spoke of "the illegal implementation of the transfer-pricing law that the Fund is forcing on Jamaica, without any concern for the terrible damage it will do to the business sector.

"And it is clear that the Government has not got the balls or the stomach to stand up to the IMF on this." Is the issue that some people feel threatened by what formally was called the hiding of income, and when you conceal income from the jurisdiction and administration of the country from which it was earned, it will now have to be taxed? What are you really saying about their commitment to Jamaica?

I would direct readers to the letter published by Edward Dewar, senior taxation manager at BDO, a highly respected international accounting firm based in Jamaica, who wrote: "It will apply where non-resident companies trade through a subsidiary, agency or branch, management or consulting services will be the usual services, including an entity with small or no staff, and which is thought could not provide services that warrant extraordinarily large fees.

"We are not talking about persons who earn fees outside Jamaica, which is quite a different thing."

Let us remember that this is law in more than 100 countries. This rip-off of the country is not new, because most of those who indulge in these practices are the ones who have little or no commitment to Jamaica. The country needs to make, embrace and enforce certain things for its own benefit and for the advantage of those who do not reside in Jamaica.

 

IS THERE GENUINE COMMITMENT TO JAMAICA?

 

Before one is erroneously attracted to the thought that only the business people are to be spotlighted, think of the attorney who, in the middle of a trial, without the courtesy of informing the trial court, would leave the country. He would have displayed a lack of commitment to the ethics of the profession, the obligation owed to his client, and treated the trial court with the contempt that I would believe warrants a suspension from the Bar.

High-ranking public servants accept appointments across foreign jurisdictions, showing little regard for the poor people of Jamaica who paid for their education. Committed to Jamaica?

In looming public-sector reform, the Government of Jamaica should consider:

1. Limiting employment of those who have green cards to the USA, pledge allegiance to the USA, and have tax obligations on their income wherever it is earned. The Government should pursue this through the verification tool to be found in the USA Freedom of Information Act. In the USA, if you are not a citizen, you are forbidden from working with the federal government.

2. Where FATCA and double taxation treaties exist, the Government must vigorously impose reciprocity.

3. The MPs who may not be American citizens, but green card holders, by their very presence in Parliament, are splitting their allegiance.

Who is really committed to Jamaica?

• Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.