Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Daniel Thwaites | Raising taxes to cut taxes

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 5:00 AM

Naturally, these are preliminary remarks about Audley Shaw's Budget opening, which was undoubtedly one of the most eagerly anticipated in recent memory. More will have to be said about it, but I plan to just phase it eeen.

First of all: Excellent presentation! Anxious anticipation. High drama. Tension. Audley is a showman. Even the bit about sprinkling ganja seeds on his salad. Fantastic stuff.

So, anyway, when Audley was cuing up the ball during the first part of his masterful presentation, the key words "partnership" and "tax reform" had decisively replaced "promise kept" and "tax relief".

Once those oily lubricators replaced their straightforward precursors, it was the first unmistakable indicator that Audley wouldn't be able to deliver, and that this would be an exercise in misdirection and shifting the terms of fulfilment.

In case you've been lulled into a forgetful stupor, this wasn't supposed to be "tax reform". If that's what it was supposed to be about, Audley would have just pulled the Private Sector Working Group's reforms (agreed upon by both parties) off the shelf.

This was supposed to be "tax relief". Remember? There was no need for any new taxes to fund this plan. That's why it was safe, whatever the bad-minded naysayers might say. And that's why there was no need to "phase it eeen".

So I, for one, don't want to hear about any "tax reform" as an excuse to raise taxes on me. I want to know where I can go to pick up my $18,000 cheque! And when it's time for a man to fulfil his promise to me, I don't want to hear 'bout nuh "partnership". The "partnership" is that you need to do what you said you would do.

 

I WAS WARNED

 

All right, that's a slight overstatement. Because it's not like I didn't know this was a hocus-pocus scam. After all, the women outside Parliament warned me and the whole of Jamaica. And they were supporters of the Government's plan!

Remember? One promised her son's goat and her father's family land to finance it. From I heard that, I suspected a new era was being phased eeen and that there was more to this thing than met the eye. Well, it turns out the woman is a seer!

Not to mention the self-described prostitute - who can forget her? - who was willing to pitch in to do filing! Bless her! She was willing to sacrifice things even more personal than a mere goat or land. That's dedication. And that's what we need to phase eeen more of in this country!

Anyway, these wise women understood more clearly than most what would be called for to get this plan under way. Sacrifice. Grief. Slaughtering of animals. Alienation of property. Filing, and filing, and more filing!

There was, of course, a deeply satisfying and Orwellian aspect to Audley's triumphalism in Parliament. Squealer would have been proud! In fact, he would have easily coined some fitting epithet like "We are increasing taxes to deliver the tax cuts we promised"! And there would have undoubtedly been great satisfaction phased eeen on the Farm.

The notion that this is a fulfilled promise is prefaced on completely forgetting that it was to be implemented WITHOUT any tax increases, which the promisers said repeatedly, and which they were repeatedly cautioned against. Audley really tek people fi some big-head bud.

To cover up this glaring problem, we were led back to the "Peta spen' de gas-tax money!" claim. Hence the key finding of The Sunday Gleaner that 'Audley knew' the exact state of those funds was blithely ignored. Audley needs to maintain that fiction.

But the barefaced repetition of a falsity makes it no less false, but only gives us further reason to be mindful that Squealer is alive and well on this Farm: "If there's an inconvenient fact, just phase eeen its opposite."

 

CAMPAIGN PROMISE BROKEN

 

So let's glide by the obvious: The campaign promise has been broken. This is actually a tax increase, the changes are late, and they don't include key features of the previously announced plan. But it's all good in the hood, because this is where the "partnership" comes in again, when the Government smacks you with the gas tax immediately, but the promised benefit: "Phase it eeen!"

As it happens, the low international oil prices have giving people a break. Nobody can avoid paying for transportation and electricity in all the goods and services they access, so when the price falls, everyone benefits. But aha! That was the opportunity to pounce. Now it's your gas and electric bill that will be phased from poverty to prosperity with the additional gas tax and LNG tax. And it goes without saying that tourists phasing eeen to Jamaica have no problem pitching in to pay for election promises. No problem, mon!

Listen! On a more positive note, you will have noticed that these tax increases only pay for the first phase of 'phase it eeen'. So if you want to feel better, just ask yourself: When next year rolls around, where will he find the additional funds to keep phasing? More taxes, pal. They're going to phase that eeen, too. Remember: Tax increases are really tax cuts.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.