Taxing Matters…

Clovis, Jamaica Observer, April 27, 2009

It took virtually twenty years but a Jamaican government has finally taken my father’s advice to tax petroleum. 1990 was the first time my Dad came to visit me here and he couldn’t believe how cheap gas/petrol was. Your government is subsidizing petrol? he would incredulously ask my friends who dropped by. They should be taxing it! In India we have just raised the petrol tax again. People drive too much, there’s no need to drive everywhere etc etc. (I should say that my Dad is generally full of good ideas that have earned him quite a reputation. He was recently in the news in India for having launched a ‘child-tracking system‘).

Needless to say my father gained instant unpopularity with my friends. i remember Victor Chang kissing his teeth as he left my house one evening. The fact that my Dad (Samuel Paul) was an economist who had been adviser to the current Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he was Finance Minister and a member of various five-year plan committees didn’t endear him to my friends any further. They were simply enraged by the idea that gas should be taxed.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some irrational link between the price of gas in Jamaica and public tolerance levels. Like the proverbial red rag that provokes the bull to charge, price increases in gas have repeatedly been the trigger for Jamaican rage: the only thing that is guaranteed to make public patience boil till it erupts into violent social disorder. People will willingly put up with torture, rape, murder and corruption but touch the price of gas and you’ve gone too far.

Las May, The Gleaner, April 24, 2009

You will therefore understand why the Jamaican government had to put its security forces on alert the night before Finance Minister Audley Shaw (Oddly Sure i call him in private) announced his tax package. The Prime Minister even made a TV appearance the evening before to address the nation. As someone put it on Twitter “He was on TV basically begging us not to set Jamaica on fire come tomorrow when the new taxes are announced.” After all that the country is still recovering from the fact that for the first time in decades the much feared gas tax has been imposed without social repercussions of any sort. Surely some credit is due to the Opposition for not opportunistically inciting violence as happened in April 1999. And congratulations to the ruling party for biting the bullet and belling the cat. The gas tax was long overdue. I am my father’s daughter after all (I do deplore the tax on ‘printed material’ and computers though).

Las May, The Gleaner, April 2, 2009

Anyhow! Those of us who Twitter and Facebook had a great time before, during and after Oddly Sure’s presentation. Below is a sample of the kinds of conversations to be had on social networking sites such as Facebook. It was initiated by a Facebook friend whose status update the night before Minister Shaw’s presentations said:Wonda if me fe work tomorrow or start black d road fram tonight?” On G-day this was her status update and the conversation it generated:

WC: MEMO TO ALL CONCERNED: Due to budget constraints I will have to surrender my internet so no more FB after 2:10pm, it was nice knowing you all, to the foreigners, pls send a likkle barrel now and then as I will be facing some harsh times, to those i owe – i plead ‘mentally unstable’ so pls write off those debts! to ma fellow roadblackers…..’keep it blacked’! over & out!

OW at 8:54am April 23
talk the tings Winnsome what a gwane a yard!!!!! dont tell me say a de Change what dem ask fa….. a tek place….lol

SB at 9:02am April 23 via Facebook Mobile
Smaddy caan beg di driva fi slow done… One stop driva one stop.DRIVA!!!!

WC at 9:12am April 23

Steve hon, how d bus fi slow dung when no driva no een deh!! a strait collision…stay deh…..say u prayas an ask fi forgiveness!!!

SB at 9:17am April 23 via Facebook Mobile
Memba Seaga wen seh di pnp economy was like a bus going dung mount rosser hill wid no driva. Dis yah one yah is like a hijack plane wid out pilat

OW at 9:19am April 23
Winnie me feel say U vote fi the change to talk up……..
WC at 9:21am April 23

rahtid!!! a true…..yes, but u know say Seaga did mix up an love war!! (lol) but me dear…dis even wos dan hijak plane….a doh even know what fi call e……u memba how Man a Yaad did say jus few weeks ago dat ‘the Jamaican economy not affected by the world crisis an how we criss’ an fram den me say da man d really tek we fi dunce an now him tunRead More him mout….but we did know an eediat Mike Henry a say we need d gas tax fi fix d badly neglected roads an even dat not going to be enuff!! u shld a see him face!! bwoy Steve….it no pretty

DM at 9:33am April 23 via Facebook Mobile
Lawks Winnie, mi very sarry fi hear bout di sudden heconomic downturn pon di rock but noh worry as di barrel is being packed as I tab. Just remind me of yu haddress and pray seh dem noh seajack di ship….have mercy dear Faadah and pilat we chu lifes tempestuous seas…. roger dat, 10 4, ova n hout!….an til wi meet ah farin again mi fren, walk good!!!

Author: ap

writer, editor and avid tweeter

10 thoughts on “Taxing Matters…”

  1. Expect price increases on everything that has a transportation component e.g. food distribution.

    Also, remember many persons live in Old Harbour and work in Kingston as there are no jobs in OH.Imagine their gas bill!

    Food is expensive in Jamaica.

    It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

  2. Yuh faada right yes! If di price a gas did well higher, we would have been pushed to have a better public transportation system, and all dem blasted cyar yah wouldn’t come a block up di road dem, cau seh dem woudda well dear! Yuh nuh know traffic madness till yuh live a mobay an affi drive pan dem yah saaka-saaka road, y’aa sah! Like how fi mi cyar ongle move pon weekend a’ready, me nuh mi’n tun Sunday Driver fi true!

  3. Thanks LB, you get it.

    Anon: i realize that the price of gas impacts everything but the price was way over what its going to be with the tax increase almost all of last year so i guess those prices are up there already.

    If we want change we’re all going to have to make sacrifices or we’re looking at our neighbour Haiti as the eventuality here as well.

    the gas tax most impacts those who can afford to drive, and they can afford to pay a little more to improve the road system and whatever else the govt. plans to do.

    no pain, no gain–

    what i do think they should roll back are the taxes on books, computers…

  4. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the govvy would tax books in Jamaica. Dat no mek no sens non taal!

    Having increased the tax on fuel though, it is incumbent on the government to take practical steps to improve the public transportation system, as Longbench noted. Traveling along my corner of the North Coast (St. Mary, St. Ann) is a nightmare, and taxi fares were exorbitant even then, last Summer, while I was there. The prices might have already been raised when the price of oil was skyrocketing, but I am sure it is only a matter of time before the Taxi Driver’s Association demands another increase. And if yu liv ina bush laka mi, that’s increase + 20, fi compensate fi di bad ruod dem.

  5. yeah I hear you IMG. maybe the solution is subsidized gas for certain types of taxis? the system is so f-ed up that the burden is going to fall on the poor disproportionately as usual. the only consolation is that the better off are being made to pay their share and if the govt keeps its word the moeny will go into improving infrastructure of transport sys.

  6. Hail Annie, all who vote fi change in Jamaica get red money!!

    Sadly Jamaica no longer needs a “driva” it needs a mechanic. However, Bruce and Oddly have proven themselves mechanically incompetent and illiterate. There are other serious alternatives to increasing government revenue as opposed to raising the tax on petrol. The opposition minister on finance (of all people) raised some credible alternatives in his contribution to the budget debate, so has economists Bryan Chang and others. The knock-on effect of petrol price increases under this current economic climate seems infinite. It will undoubtedly adversely affect the poor most and increase private poverty in ways never seen before in Jamaica.

    Additionally, the PM and his MPs continue to act in a high handed manner. They failed to promote the need for an increased petrol tax in positive way (maybe because the JLP’s PR guru is busy as the newly appointed permanent secretary at the Ministry of Energy and Mining – pay off for party work?). The tone and demeanor of our current leaders…”the take-it-or-leave-it attitude ” is reminiscent of Michael Manley’s statement that “ five flights per day leave Jamaica” suh who nuh like it guh whey! We have had enough of that type of politics in Jamdown.

    I was concerned from day one that the “driva” started off down the wrong road i.e. the PAC debacle. He has continued to defy common sense and good governance principles by appointing political favorites to head civil service organisations (Joan Gordon-whebly, Marcia Forbes etc.). In so doing, Mr. Golding has alienated many persons who wanted to change course and has left Jamaicans feeling betrayed because of his pandering to special interests while unnecessarily increasing the economic burden of all.

    We certainly needed to change course …but not in this direction! Driva…wrong road.

    Next time unno vote fi Ras Asta Black! Hahahahahahahahaha!

    Peace and love, Stero

  7. thanks for commenting regardless Ruthi, and Jamaipanese i should have acknowledged yours long ago…you’re right, not many people seem to realize that gas prices here have always been low…

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