FYI, Mr Minister
I listened to the minister of finance setting out the penalties for tax evasion and, if I were in his position, the question I would want answered would be why so many Jamaicans are tax dodgers.
If I may submit my humble observations to the learned minister:
1. Leadership must set the example that will be followed by the wider society. If Government handles its own obligations responsibly and pays its bills it will demonstrate that honour should be the hallmark for their citizens.
2. If taxes were being used for the benefit of the nation, and done so with transparency, people would be more inclined to pay taxes. Government has a duty to utiliSe the hard-earned taxes and the massive loans that they have obtained in such a manner that it creates value for the country and taxpayers. Loans and taxes cannot be dumped into a bottomless sinkhole.
3. The few taxpayers who are honest and faithful are being stifled to the point where the challenge that now faces them is whether to close and migrate.
The minister must demonstrate by his actions that steps are being taken to reduce the expenses of his government; to this end I give my recommendations:
1. Cease purchasing motor vehicles for your consultants and other government officials and instead provide a travelling allowance. All vehicles must be valued and auctioned by a reputable auctioneer.
2. Give up all expensive rental properties that are occupied by statutory bodies and renovate the International Seabed Authority for Government offices. I refer here especially to those entities like the National Health Fund (NHF), Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Water — that are non-revenue earners — and all other entities that are fully funded by taxpayers that occupy prime spaces in New Kingston. The rental for 1,000 square feet at The Towers is approximately $300,000.00 per month. Just imagine the cost for the Ministry of Water and the NHF for the use of entire floors!
3. Give tax breaks to service providers who provide employment for five or more persons.
4. Find a means to settle the denominations of the Jamaican dollar; the cost of minting the one cent, five cents and ten cents exceed the intrinsic value of the coins
5. Cut the consultants employed by the ministries. If the country is in this state it simply means they are causing more harm than good. Imagine Jamaica with its superior infrastructure and its superior tourism market predicting a growth in GDP of just 1.2 per cent in 2014, while Haiti and Guyana are predicted to grow by 4.5 per cent. This is against the background that Jamaica had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 138.90 in 2013 and is listed among the poorest nations based on per capita earnings in the Caribbean.
The brilliant minds are focusing on penalties on when there is so much to be fixed. And note, I have left out the mire of social issues that afflict us.
Faye E Jacobs (Ms)