Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 6:37 AM
For a number of reasons I have been loath in recent years to comment on political developments in my mother country of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). I am doing so today only in response to an inordinate number of urgent entreaties for me comment on the fight between our local leaders and British overseers on the implementation of the value-added tax (VAT) in our country.
I stand in solidarity with all TCIslanders who want to wrest greater control of our domestic affairs from the British.
But I fear our newly elected leaders are manifesting the same kind of political immaturity and administrative incompetence that doomed their predecessors. Exhibit A is the misguided appeal these new leaders are making to CARICOM to prevent the British from implementing VAT.
After all, Misick and his cronies wasted lots of time and money making a similar appeal to prevent the British from suspending the constitution.
CARICOM and Latin America will offer nothing but democratic platitudes; the United States will do well to give them the time of day; the EU will remind them that the UK is just doing the EU’s bidding; Africa will greet them with, “Who…Where?”; Russia is busy trying to manage its own neo-colonial ties in Syria; ditto France in Mali; and China is too spooked by the specter of hypocrisy to tell any country how to conduct its affairs (domestic or foreign).
So who they gonna call? Ghostbusters?!
In the meantime, it behooves local leaders to appreciate that real leadership is not the TCI finance minister speaking off the top of his head during parliamentary debate on Friday about possible alternatives to VAT.
Real leadership is this minister presenting parliament with an alternative bill on taxes – complete with all of the adequate assurances of fiscal soundness, fairness and sustainability the FCO demands, and TCIslanders deserve.
Incidentally, local leaders complaining about the British failing to properly consult with them on VAT is rather like (Tea-Party) Republicans complaining about the Obama Administration failing to properly consult with them on debt: in both cases, those complaining seem to think that proper consultation must result in the unconditional adoption of 100 percent of their ideas.
Not to mention that the British offered over six months of consultations, and our leaders have had well over 18 months to come up with a feasible alternative.
Again, this smacks of the same kind of administrative incompetence and immaturity Sir Robin Auld cited in his seminal report. For it is as childish as it baseless for local leaders to be throwing temper tantrums about not being properly consulted or not having enough time.
Like the old government, our new government is willfully mischaracterizing the British government’s constitutional duty to ensure good governance and sound fiscal management as a neo-colonial conspiracy to “keep us subjugated.” Never mind that I’ve been calling our local leaders’ bluff on this canard for years. Notably, I challenged no less a person than Misick to stop scapegoating the British and hold a referendum on independence. After all, he made quite a show of promising to do so, and the British have always promised to facilitate it.
I congratulate Premier Misick on this historical accomplishment [of becoming our country’s first premier]. More importantly, I encourage him to lead in such a way as to inspire the spirit of independence in our people, not as a jingoistic badge of honor but as a self-actualizing and sustainable fact of life. After all, our pending referendum should not question whether we want (or are prepared for) our independence so much as present us with the opportunity to declare it!
(“Hail Premier Misick!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 11, 2006)
Ironically, if he had honored his promise to bring independence to the TCI, Misick would not be facing trial on corruptions charges today. But I digress.
In any case, instead of taking us for fools while making fools of themselves, local leaders would serve our country far better by doing one of two things:
- Stop making ignorant and quarrelsome claims about the Governor behaving like a dictator. The Governor has done nothing our Constitution does not authorise him to do, which is more than one can say for local leaders who are trying to repeal a law the Constitution grants them no power or authority to repeal. Instead, they should engage the Governor and his UK superiors in constructive dialogue to earn the respect and confidence that would move them to devolve more powers; or
- We are still dependent on the British; therefore, it must strike all sensible TCIslanders as oxymoronic that our leaders continually behave as if we are an independent nation. If they wanted to show truly bold and inspired leadership, their first bill in this new parliament would have been one calling for independence, not one begging the British to repeal VAT. Perhaps now they should make their second bill a call for independence. (I’m sure the British would be just as determined to facilitate that as they are to implement VAT.)
All else is folly.
The British Government is proposing VAT as the fairest way to generate reliable revenue streams to fund government programs. Our new government is not only opposing it, but acting as if defeating VAT would automatically generate similar revenue streams.
Intelligent minds can differ on whether VAT is good for the TCI. But it’s demonstrably specious for local leaders to insist that VAT will destroy our economy when VAT is providing fair and sustainable revenues in regional countries like Antigua, Barbados, and Jamaica.
Barbados’ former Prime Minister and eminent Caribbean Statesman, Owen Arthur, has described value-added tax (VAT) as the best option for the Caribbean region in the age of trade liberalization.
(Tax-News, London, 12 August 2010)