Inspiring, hard-fought World Cup
THIS is the week when we gear for the grand finale of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the flags of favourite countries are flying on cars all over Jamaica. The two countries of choice in our family are Argentina (Hubie is a die-hard Messi fan), and mine, Brazil, because that country sacrificed much to stage this huge event.
At our office, these and two other flags flying atop cubicle dividers are Germany and The Netherlands. So this is going to be an exciting week: our four favourites made it to the semi-finals!
We all agree that this has been the hardest-fought World Cup that we have ever seen in our lifetime. Spain and France were also sentimental choices and we were sad to see their exit. We have witnessed skill and talent, teamwork and heartbreak, as several matches went into extra-time and penalties.
The injury to Neymar has been a strike to the hearts of Brazilian fans and even as we celebrated Brazil's win on Friday, we felt the tears of that brilliant young Colombian player James Rodriquez who scored five World Cup goals.
Kudos to CONCACAF member Costa Rica (population 4.3 million): they took the mighty Netherlands (population 16.7 million) starring top footballers Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder through extra-time and into penalties. The Netherlands changed their goalkeeper for the penalties, triggering a rumour that they may have specially trained him for this eventuality, having lost so painfully in a similar episode in the South Africa 2010 World Cup.
Rising starts in football, USA (my US friends, this is real football), learned from their match with Portugal that you don't start celebrating until the big whistle sounds. They were 2-1 ahead and while celebrating Portugal levelled the game. Happily, they made it to the round of 16 and, despite their loss to Belgium, held their own with goalkeeper Tim Howard emerging a star for his record number of saves, heralding a new respect for the beautiful game in the USA.
Inspiration for a level playing field
Our leaders should be taking note of this football excitement, and be looking at ways in which they can tap into this amazing islandwide enthusiasm for crucial causes such as governance, social justice, and productivity. The recent dramas around sex education, social justice and alternative energy may not have reached the current crises if Jamaicans were fully invested in our national goals.
I am not sure if ministers, councillors and MPs know how easy it is for their public to know the difference between authenticity and hypocrisy. Perhaps they could have escaped before the advent of social media but now we know who you are. Fancy speeches and regular appearances on the news can be quite irritating when most people know the back stories of tribalism and victimisation.
Football attracts us with its level playing field in the bright light of day where every move is observed and adjudged. Unfortunately, our country is not run in this way, and we all hope for the day when boards and leaders of government agencies are selected based on (to paraphrase Dr Martin Luther King) the content of their character and not the colour of their party.
Dr King speaks of a phase of purification before one can claim true leadership — those in high places should read his 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail'. One of that letter's unforgettable lines: "The time is always right to do right."
We are a tiny country — in India we would be three political constituencies. Big government is a millstone around the necks of
taxpayers, in particular small and medium businesses. Corporates who choose to do the right thing and operate above the radar are being savaged by taxation — the latest being a brand-new $60,000 kneecapping.
Debbie-Ann Gordon Crawford, chair of the Jamaica Bar Association Revenue Committee, explained that this is "The Provisional Collection of Tax (Minimum Business Tax) Order, 2014 — the latest entrant — a new levy starting at $60,000 and is payable by: Companies/body corporates in which no exemptions are made for nil return, loss-making or income tax exempt entities; Individuals operating businesses with a gross revenue (ie statutory income, except for income from emoluments and income subject to tax at the nil rate) of at least $3 million for the year of assessment."
At a recent Kiwanis Club of Kingston event, Mrs Gordon Crawford noted: "Since 2013 to present, Jamaica has experienced perhaps its heartiest dosage of tax legislation in its history." Among others mentioned are The Provisional Collection of Tax (Asset Tax) Order — Gazetted in 2013 and The General Consumption Tax (Validation and Indemnity) Act, 2013.
"Even I myself have asked an IMF staff, Who 'owns' this historic 'tax reform' package?" stated the brilliant young attorney-at-law. "The notion of ownership is interesting because it raises the question of who has power in this 'reform' process and who takes responsibility for this 'reform', (so, by extension, we will know who to thank in the history books)."
"Given that almost all of the 2013-2014 laws are merely revenue-raising measures, why then do we reference them as part of the 'Tax Reform' process? Is it more palatable for us taxpayers or for politicians?" she asks. "For clarity, even in the area of taxation, 'reform' maintains its ordinary meaning, that is, 'to improve'. Further, the new laws, like the old (though worse) are difficult to read, fraught with uncertainties and ambiguities.
"I have deduced that but for the 'fund-supported economic reform programme' Parliament would not have so hastily and recklessly sanctioned the 'tax reform' package, and therefore I have elected to refer to the new taxing regime as the IMF-driven 'tax reform' package," she declared.
"It is apparent... that as a matter of fact, the key goal/focus of this IMF tax reform package has been to increase tax revenues, rather than 'tax reform' in the true sense of achieving a more equitable, certain or simple tax system," she argued.
Like Mrs Gordon Crawford, we are troubled that "the most recent public correspondence from Jamaica to Ms Lagarde... says, amongst other things, 'the Government believes that the policies described in the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies are adequate to achieve the programme's objectives. However, if necessary, the Government stands ready to take any additional measures that may be required'."
Will this necessity be the mother of more taxation? Or can we hope it will be the mother of the invention of a system that will finally be able to collect from the 95 per cent of registered companies that are still not in the tax
net? Please read the full text of Debbie-Ann Gordon Crawford's address posted on my blog.
JC honours Dr Jeffrey Meeks
We had mentioned that two Jamaica College Old Boys recently received the Carlton Alexander Award and quoted the citation for Butch Hendrickson. The other awardee is none other than orthodontist Dr Jeffrey Meeks, to whom many folks owe their perfect smiles. His citation revealed that besides his awesome 'chair-side manner', he was a popular 'dub poet'.
"Since returning to his homeland in 1987, Jeffrey has established himself as one of the leading orthodontists practising in Kingston and Montego Bay," reads the citation. "He has authored several scientific articles published in leading journals, while simultaneously holding the highest elected office of his profession — president of the Jamaica Dental Association. He is also a foundation member of the Caribbean Society of Orthodontics, as well as a member in good standing of the American Association of Orthodontists and the World Federation of Orthodontists. ...Though his humility may overshadow his unrelenting dedication to Jamaica College and our nation at large, the measure of his work knows no bounds."
Congratulations to the excellent Dr Jeffrey Meeks!