The Bitter Medicine at Last!

1-point-5 plus tax plus tax- after being given the assurance in the heights of campaigning that the JLP’s income tax break would be funded without additional taxes, who would have thought that the tax “giveback” would wind up being the three card trick that many of us knew that it would be from day one.

This current administration has so far presented two budgets with two massive tax packages that impact not only those who have gotten $18,000 richer but every single citizen of this country. Fuel costs have gone up, electricity costs have gone up, food costs have gone up, and by next year this time, the dead too will be rising up. To soften its burden on the poorest among us, the government has announced its $33 per day increase to PATH beneficiaries, as though that is something to write home about when some of the most vulnerable in our society still cannot access PATH and those who do have access were slapped with the myriad increases that this government believes is necessary to fund its tax package to a minute and wealthier subsection of the population.

TAX ON HEALTH

At a time when a government should be seeking to guarantee healthcare for all, it has slapped on a tax to group health insurance premiums in what is an unprecedented move. With our public health system already overburdened, grappling for life and forcing its workers to make blood out of stone, the government should not be seeking to drive away Jamaicans from private health care to land them right back into the overburdened public system which needs fixing and will take some time to be fixed. To make matters worse, this government has consistently used technicalities to prove itself intelligent, and the populace-fools. It believes that we are stupid enough to run with this notion that the individual organizations responsible for undertaking group health insurance will absorb the additional cost that the GCT will subtract from their profits. With preliminary calculations showing that premiums will cost some companies tens of millions of dollars, somebody is bound to pay for that loss and sadly, it will be the already overtaxed consumers.

The government has been raiding institutions all over and slapping taxes onto everything that comes to mind to ensure that it funds its poorly thought out plan which should have cost some 12 billion dollars (I believe we are closer to 30 billion now). The NHT has suddenly become a financial institution which again, on technicalities could be considered to be true but this is the same administration that took the previous government to task over the use of NHT funds in previous years.

PROPERTY TAX

When we thought the lies and trickery were over, Audley and team presented us with a justification for the callous increases in property taxes. Having been quoted in a newspaper article stating the possibilities of increases to fund the 1-point-5 million dollar tax plan, Shaw came out recently, not to backtrack on those tax increases, but to justify why Jamaicans had to face this one off increase which he and his admin now denies to be a part of the measures to fund the pie in the sky 1-point-5 plan. While Shaw’s technicalities are important to note, and the rates of taxation have declined in real terms, to tell the man who paid $12,000 last year, faced with over $30,000 this year that he has had no increase is simply taking Jamaicans for fools. PM Holness and his merry band should remember that the Jamaican people will not be taken for fools… for too long; the PR, the spinning, the deflection and the trickery will all backfire.

While property values must be brought up to their actual value overtime, it is most callous to slap on the massive increases that are being experienced all at once. The owners and renters of property who weren’t convinced of how terrible an idea this tax “giveback” was have now been schooled by this administration- they must have been forced by now to spend two times the eighteen thousand that they were given back as a result of the increases in costs to execute their activities of daily living.

With homeowners certainly set to increase their rental costs, I have a particular concern for the hundreds of university students residing in the corporate area. Certainly, the property tax increases will be passed on to those who are being rented homes to live in for the duration of their course of study. Many of these students are from poor families who get little or no benefit from this so called giveback but will now face additional increases having been meted out a previous dose of bitter medicine last year.

The impact of the new property tax regime cannot be good for the small businesses either who will be faced with increased business maintenance costs, neither can it be a good thing for pensioners or many of our public sector workers who have been called on by governments to sacrifice on behalf of their country. Where is the government’s sacrifice for them? Does the government have massive salary increases planned for them to cushion the effects of this package?

And Ms Marva who is not going to benefit from the $33/day increase in PATH allowance but is faced with increases in the cost of items for her basic food basket, what do you have planned for her? And John, the taxi driver, who is going to bat for him? He has faced increase after increase in gas prices, multiple increases in electricity and food costs but is being told that an increase in taxi fares is unwarranted… What of his unemployed wife and the children in primary and high school?

The Minister of Finance and his team can continue telling us how great this tax package is for the country and quote all the figures that they like but the reality on the ground is far different from that in the office at Heroes Circle but after 4 years of waiting, you finally get to deliver the bitter medicine to the Jamaican people. It must be an accomplished moment for you!

AK DIXON

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