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Monday, September 17, 2012


At a political meeting held in Soufriere on Thursday to register UWP's protest against the implementation of VAT, Leader of the Opposition (Stephenson King) told an audience of faithfuls that he was considering hunger strikes as a weapon of protest against VAT.

We ask: Is King in his right senses? Will he ever be prime ministerial material? When will the “Emperor” (or Empress) realize that he is unclothed and see the need to “re-clothe” himself?

It was noteworthy that as the “protoplasm-opulent” Emperor spoke from the political platform, the unpleasant sight of his sagging bosom hanging loosely from his chest and overflowing into his massive lower abdomen below did not make good viewing. I daresay that, if anything, that spectacle was probably more “appealing” than his appeal for hunger strikes. And in that context, Juke Bois was perhaps right when he said that a hunger strike would serve the Emperor well in the pursuit of his own weight control; and in that regard, King has a rare opportunity to lead by example.

In 2002, Kenny made a commitment to the World Bank, IMF and ECCB to implement VAT. Five years later, King became Prime Minister whereupon he established a VAT Implementation Office which vigorously pursued a VAT education programme for over two years with a view to implementing the tax in April 2011. Since resuming office, Kenny has scheduled the implementation of VAT for October 2012 and this has evidently aroused every irrational nerve in King to the point of driving him paranoid.

In reality, when it comes to VAT, the substantive difference between St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean is we are the only island which has not implemented the TAX, and I wouldn’t be surprised that we are the most fiscally backward. At a time when Barbados is lauding its success, King and his band of Ali Babas are pummelling the Value-added tax as an extremely dangerous initiative, unfit for St. Lucians at this time.

But paradoxically, VAT is part of a fiscal strategy which will bail us out of our fiscal black hole. Perhaps, VAT (which the Jamaicans refer to as GCT) rescued Jamaica from the brink of collapse. When it was introduced there, social and economic conditions were far worse than they have ever been in St. Lucia, and despite the transitional problems which arose, GCT became a huge fiscal success story. What was more striking was general consensus and support for the tax across the political divide. In other words, Jamaicans demonstrated unprecedented love for country when it came to prudent fiscal measures that gave their government some breathing space to manoeuvre the economic storm.

The Jamaican success story is only one version of the wider success story of the implementation of VAT in the region. Admittedly and for reasons of profiteering, there will be a few unfair practices by ungracious merchants who prey on the initial glitches in the accounting system. But over time, those hurdles are generally resolved.

Contrary to uninformed and extreme "Juke Bois" type positions that VAT favours Ministers fortunes, it does not; VAT goes into education, health, infrastructure and all other services that government provides to the people.  All gov’t has done is to charge a few cents more on the tax on certain products and services to increase the pool of fiscal revenue for an improvement in the quality and quantity of service to be rendered to the citizens. All countries in the world do that. It is the norm! And the VAT structure is pretty much within the same range for all countries.

In fact, if King were a smart PM, he would have shown courage and brave the weather to implement VAT; perhaps, if he had done that, his gov’t might still have been in office. St. Lucians are intelligent people who understand.

However, King may be a rare exception. Although he is a far cry from Mitt Romney, President Obama’s characterization of Romney aptly fits him: He shoots before he takes aim! King is being led into a precipitous black hole by unruly mobsters who have usurped the UWP ethic and values which Sir John left as legacy.  I feel sorry for the Party.

King and his gang of seditious agitators (against the economy) have gotten to their endpoint of desperation! That is the only plausible explanation for his agitation against VAT, calling on St. Lucians to go on hunger strikes to protest against it.

Meanwhile on the same night of the ill-fated UWP meeting in Soufriere, a vessel was intercepted just off the the coast of the town and a quantity of 73 kilos of cocaine was seized; what was even worse was the fact that St. Lucia recorded two homicides over last weekend. One of the homicide victims was a taxi driver (Victor Motley aka Ras Taxi) and the other is a security guard (Fabian Joseph). Won't the emperor have better served St. Lucia by launching a war on the drug trade and homicides instead of VAT?

It’s time for the UWP to reorganize itself and get its priorities right!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Editor,

    I would like to comment on the introduction of VAT.

    I was working in HM Customs and Excise in the UK when VAT was introduced there in the 1970's and yes the misgivings and trepidation was exactly as they are here now.

    There were many many different taxes in force at the time including even a separate tax on playing cards and the administration of all these different taxes was extremely onerous .

    Of course there were hiccups and glitches at the beginning but after a few weeks or so the " penny dropped " how simple it all was as compared to before VAT. I seem to remember the main thing that could have been done differently was that VAT Inspectors were sent to all businesses large and small over time, the higher ranks were sent to the large organisations and lower to the small corner shop type of business. The problem here was that large operations already had accounts departments, accountants etc that made the job easier. The small businesses had receipts in the drawer in the sideboard or behind the clock ( if they had them at all ) and so made accounting for VAT a nightmare and I believe this is where the problems will be here.

    I must also comment on the fact that the announced list of exempt items seems very small. In the UK for example all clothes and shoes under a certain size ie for children were zero rated ,( yes I know that caused anomalies if one had a very tall child or a was a very short adult ) but things can never be completely fair can they?

    Also all basic food items were exempt, for example a plain digestive biscuit was classed as basic and therefore exempt but when covered with chocolate became a luxury and therefore attracted VAT so I feel more could have been done in this respect.


    Diana Theodore