Transforming TEF into TIEF
Can you believe this? They're now flying kites about transforming the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) into the Tourism Homeland Income Enhancement Fund (THIEF), or to put it in 'Jumaykan', the Tourism & Income Enhancement Fund (TIEF). This is policy in the Ganja Republic!
Shouldn't you have your 18,000 bucks by now? Nobody forced Audley, a former finance minister, to announce April 1 as the implementation date. He knows the Budget process. So what is with the whole heap a prayaz now?
"De money gawn! Mi can't find it! Peta Phillup spen' it off!" said Audley to the PSOJ, who sat listening respectfully. A few years ago, this was an organisation clamouring for financial integrity and credibility from Government. But this is why we can't have nice things: Civil society is both too 'civil' and too 'society' when it really matters.
Anyway, the press lapdogs took off and tried to make a whole thing of Audley's accusations. They forgot Hansard. So The Sunday Gleaner came back with exquisite drollery: 'SHAW KNEW!' One could almost see the newspaper rolling its eyes, because that headline could as easily have read, 'HE'S BACK!'
Of course, this is all great for confidence and predictability. In at least one instance I'm personally familiar with, a businessman spent hours on the Monday following that headline explaining patiently to a nervous foreign investor that in all seriousness, jokes and jokers aside, it's Fayval Williams who is finance minister and Shaw has more of a ceremonial role.
Make no mistake about it: The income tax promise will be implemented. The plan is to do it, then induce the public to ignore the consequences and the failure to implement any of the other promises. So the real question is: at what cost?
How will YOU pay for this promise? Oh! You thought you were going to just 'get' something? You poor naive child! Taxation is for suckers who don't take their income through St Lucia. LOL. Hey, just Greece up and prepare yourself.
As it is, the adjustment to the income tax threshold will cost the country a few solid billion. The withdrawal of all school fees will cost a few more billion. Here comes the sugar industry, which has just been handed a blank cheque that will no doubt be filled in for a few billion again.
But hey, a billion here and a billion there, what's that to high-rollers of our calibre? In fact, bring out the expensive whisky and the good champagne!
EVERYTHING ON SALE
Well, now they're frantically looking for revenue. Seprod must be sold! JPS must be sold! The propaganda before the election was that Dunn's River Falls was sold. Well, it might have to be. Everything is on sale. And watch out for the tax hikes.
The People's National Party (PNP), meanwhile, still elbow deep in National Housing Trust money, might not exactly raise the roof about this transformation of TEF into TIEF.
So TIEF is the growth agenda? Inhibit tourism by charging the tourists more, then neglect to fix up the place so as to finance election promises? Brilliant! Either way, my last two experiences in Ocho Rios, where the hotels were polished, but the surrounding town was a disgusting toilet, will be the norm going forward.
Plus, truth be told, the PNP is not anxious to oppose the tax giveback. For starters, an indecent number of its leadership and membership are half-thinking: "Damn! That was a good trick! Why didn't we think of that?" So it's important to understand what's happening here: The tiny shoots of financial probity that seemed to be taking root have been thoroughly ploughed up and we're back to the good old ways from the good old days.
Don't for a moment think we're seeing the full consequences of this ploy right now. For instance, after advertising that the Government has money to giwweh when election a run, good luck telling civil servants that they will have to hold strain when the next round of negotiations comes up.
Anyway, to avoid merely being critical, I want to offer to Audley a two-pronged solution to this hole he's digging. First of all, hire Dr Phillips as a consultant so we get back someone competent in the finance ministry. Second, instead of transforming TEF into TIEF, tax your pals at the banks.
Maybe even ask Peter Phillips to revisit the transaction tax that you opposed, so that the burden of your promises falls on the right shoulders and not on the poor who don't pay PAYE, and who have been thoroughly samfied.
If all that fails, resort to reinterpretation of the original promise. Simply explain that when you said "18,000 bucks", you meant hits with your forehead. Hit! One buck. Hit! Two bucks. Hit! Three bucks. It will be a lot of work, but you might be left in a coma after getting your 18,000 bucks.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.