Fri | Jul 28, 2017

Rise up and say, ‘No more!’

Published:Sunday | March 15, 2015 | 3:00 AM
Minister of Finance Dr Peter Phillips gestures during his Budget Debate presentation last Thursday.
If Peter Phillips has his way, motorists will be paying $7 more per litre through a new gas tax.
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Every domino player knows that the worst domino crime is to cut and bring back.

Obviously, no domino players exist at the finance ministry where the 2015-16 Budget was prepared, nor in the Cabinet where it was approved for presentation to Parliament. The disgraceful, desperate resort by the current Government to the reintroduction of GCT on electricity for residential customers repeats the political crime perpetrated by the PNP that allowed it to steal the 2011 election. The party responsible for that blatant electoral larceny is now a recidivist that has compounded its disregard for duty by egregiously heaping casual contempt upon Jamaicans with this smoke-and-mirrors Budget.

Remember this: "How many of you can pay your light bill? You plug out everything and leave your house for days, and still at the end of the month, you still pay more than you did before. Well, the next PNP Government will remove GCT from electricity."

Guess who? Young Andrew (now regularly accused of saying one thing and doing another)? To borrow from Mighty Gabby, "No, no, no, no!" It was an opposition leader, but not Young Andrew. This pearl came from the lips of Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller at a PNP campaign rally in November 2011. Fist raised and flanked by party stalwarts, including chairman-for-life Robert 'Chicken Feed' Pickersgill, she gloated that only the PNP would stop this torture by GCT of the Jamaican people.

 

Reckless promise

 

For the avoidance of all doubt, Mrs Simpson Miller went on to emphasise that the removal of GCT from light bills would also be extended to the productive and business sectors in order to improve productivity and create more jobs. At that time, the JLP argued that GCT on electricity, then applicable only to persons using more than 200 kilowatt-hours per month, didn't apply to 74% of Jamaicans.

On November 23, 2011, Audley Shaw, addressing a Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica breakfast, argued: "When you make the promise of cutting GCT on electricity and you offer no alternative as to where the money is going to come from, it's a problem." Still, Portia insisted that it had to be removed.

Swept to power on the back of that reckless promise, the PNP immediately reneged on it by delaying the implementation of the GCT removal from light bills. The 2012-13 Budget included an announcement by Finance Minister Phillips that GCT on electricity would be increased from 10% to 16.5%, while the user threshold would be increased from 200kWh to 300kWh. By this dastardly breach of promise, the finance minister projected Government would earn an additional $430 million in GCT.

What did we do?

Get up, stand up, stand up for your right

Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight.

 

Limited GCT rollback

 

An islandwide furore forced the prime minister, when her turn in the Debate came, to announce another volte-face with a limited rollback of the GCT on electricity, but only to residential users. She said:

"We made a promise before the elections to relieve the burden of the GCT on electricity, particularly for the poor and struggling middle class. The [finance] minister, in his presentation to the Parliament, presented a set of measures. Since then, there have been numerous requests for us to extend these benefits to all householders. We have heard the cries of the people. We have listened and feel the pain.

"As a responsive Government, after discussions with the minister of finance, the decision has been taken to completely remove GCT on electricity bills for all residential customers."

The concept of jobs promoted by relief to the business sector was tossed through the window. Not to worry, the Government's watchword was still 'growth'. But, how? JEEP?

My apologies to Robert Nesta Marley and Peter McIntosh:

Politician, don't tell me heaven is under your girth

I know you don't know what life is really worth

Is not all that glitters in gold and

Half the story has never been told

So now you see the light, aay

Stand up for your right.

Since then, Government's growth plans have consistently failed; Jamaica is in recession by any rational assessment; but Government, driven by the overriding objective of satisfying the IMF, has turned its back on its citizens and has imposed a raft of new taxation measures on the backs of newly impoverished Jamaicans who were unable to meet last year's revenue projections.

In its desperation to fund an election Budget, Government has, by implication, conceded that Shaw's 2011 argument was correct and reimposed the pernicious GCT on electricity for residential users. Lord, deliver us.

So, this smoke-and-mirrors Budget, heralded as a growth budget, is to achieve growth by squeezing every cent of disposable income from Jamaica's only engine of growth, namely, Jamaican citizens.

As if the barefaced reneging on important election promises and reversal of earlier limited tax relief weren't enough, Government has moved to seal off any avenue for growth from global reduction in oil prices by imposing a massive $7-per-litre gas tax.

Smoke and mirrors have collaborated to call it all sorts of euphemisms, including "increase in the specific SCT rates on petrol by J$7.00 per litre" and "replacement of the 1% petroleum cess to a specific SCT of $2 per litre". But in calling-a-spade-a-spade language, it's an imposition of more than $8 BILLION in a new gas tax!

This tax increase is an abomination unto the people and will drive up the price of EVERYTHING, including transportation, food, and services. Everyday staples will be hit by a double whammy of increased GCT on electricity (increased fuel costs) AND the new gas tax. Inflation, forced into single digits by reduced global oil prices, is destined to shoot up into the high teens once more. The Jamaican middle class will be eradicated as efficiently as the Holocaust eradicated millions of Jews.

Jamaica, where are your testicles? Will you allow this archaic, arbitrary, totalitarian Westminster style of governance to permit governments to tax us as they like by proclamation without reply? When will we rise up and say, "NO MORE!"?

We're sick and tired of your ism schism game

Die and go to heaven in ism schism name.

We know and we understand

Almighty God is living man

You can fool some people sometimes

But you can't fool all the people all the time

So now we see the light

We gonna stand up for our rights.

The thick black smoke engulfing the Corporate Area and St Catherine on Thursday and Friday last week wasn't from the Riverton City fire. It came from the shameless, egregious use of smoke AND mirrors by the finance minister in his opening contribution to the Budget Debate in which he sounded the death knell of the Jamaican spirit with a totalitarian-style imposition of impossible-to-bear new taxes.

Of those new taxes, the reimposition of GCT on light bills for residential users may not have been the most burdensome, but it was the most destructive of the collective trust. We can NEVER trust anything this Government tells us again. No promise is worth the smarmy words used to deliver it. No covenant is dependable. It's up to us to put a stop to the rot. It's up to us to ensure this isn't repeated. NEVER AGAIN. It's time for us to tell them, "Pack your bags and go!"

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.