Editorial

A government that listens gets re-elected

Sunday, April 27, 2014    

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The wrong and strong type of government is long passé. An increasingly sophisticated electorate, as Jamaicans are becoming, warms to a regime that listens and responds to their concerns.

It would be unfair and unwise, as a few are trying to do, to suggest that Jamaicans do not appreciate that our country is in an economic bind, with little alternative, if any, to the tough measures we are going through to get the economy growing.

We do not agree with Opposition Leader Andrew Holness that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is not the right person for this time. Mr Holness might be trying to imply that because she is not an economist, she can't lead the country out of an economic crisis. He would be wrong.

Quite apart from the many other non-economists who led their country out of economic downturns, former United States President Bill Clinton being one of the eminent ones, leadership is not always about what one studied in school.

We believe that the country has been extremely patient with the Government as Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips takes us on the path to recovery as set out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That patience, we are willing to argue, has a lot to do with the 'believability' of Mrs Simpson Miller.

Jamaica could easily have reacted like Greece and several other countries to the austerity measures being imposed in heavy doses. In times like these the value of a leader who people trust to be doing the best a government can, is immeasurable.

In effect, Dr Phillips was being hailed for his steady hand in guiding the economy and the Government commended for staying the course, just before the withdrawal fee, or 'ATM tax' was announced.

The spontaneous outcry against the tax is not about people not understanding that taxes are necessary and even critical at this time to ensure we don't fall off the IMF track. It is the well-known not-what-you do-but-how-you-do-it syndrome to which people are responding.

One has a sense that the Administration has tied our hands firmly behind our backs and now intends to thrust its hands violently into our pockets, with a mocking, derisive laugh on its face. Taxes are never popular, but they must make sense and one must be made to feel that it is a last resort after all creative considerations have been exhausted.

The withdrawal tax does not feel that way. It feels like a rape has taken place. But it also presents an opportunity for a caring government to demonstrate that it is listening and it understands the pain of the people.

We repeat our earlier suggestion in this space that the withdrawal tax can be an effective tool to go after people whose names do not appear on the income tax roll without good reasons.

Dr Phillips should also consider limiting the application of the tax, if it is indeed a last resort.

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