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 it will be a march of folly for our newly elected leaders (of both parties) to take the same primrose path in the international community to stop the British from implementing VAT that former Premier Michael Misick took to stop them from suspending our Constitution (i.e., it will prove a waste of time and money):
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.
Frankly, it smacks of the same kind of administrative incompetence and immaturity Sir Robin Auld cited in his seminal report for local leaders to be throwing temper tantrums about not being properly consulted or not having enough time.
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.
Finally, for the record, 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)