Amidst the recession the world is now experiencing, and upcoming free trade on the global market, there is hope for Jamaica and her citizens. Hiding just underneath our government’s nose are options that will make Jamaica self sustaining, providing the resources needed to rebuild and propel the country forward.
Let me start by comparing our nation to a common household; a family of four. Now, if this family earns a total of $120,000 per month and consumes a total of $125,000 per month, then it shows a deficit of $5,000 a month or $60,000 a year. Due to this continued shortfall in earnings, this family will eventually be bankrupt. The same holds true for our nation.
If our finance ministers continue to spend more that we earn, our nation will eventually be bankrupt. This means we will not have any resource for free education, health care, road repair, etc., as no nation will lend to a country that cannot pay its debts. This being the case, it is necessary to either reduce or consumption or increase or earning, both of which we are capable of doing.
We as a nation are already in debt. It is therefore necessary first to trim our fat by reducing consumption. Be advised though that consumption can be both good and bad. Goods and services consumed from a source outside of the countryat this time are bad; however, goods and services from within will be good.
It is therefore necessary to maximize our ‘Buy Jamaica’ campaign. Furthermore, increasing internal consumption will create job opportunities which our nation so badly need. So then, reduce imported goods and services into the country that can be attained locally.
Our imports for the year 2008 were an estimated $5,784 billion (J$1=US$0.09), more than 25 per cent of GDP. Of this amount, food products that can be produced locally or be substituted by local product cost US$518 million. This money spent on imported food should be used to create distribution centers for farmers to market their local products to Jamaicans.
If the market is available, more people will produce. I cannot count the number of times it is reported that produce rots in the field because there is no market. I have also witnessed local produce thrown to swine because they cannot compete with imported foods that flood the Jamaican market place.
If foreign foods are not present on the market, they cannot be consumed. Our right as free men gave us a choice. However, at times our choices need to be curtailed especially in times when we all need to work together if we are to survive.
Jamaica occupies an area close to but smaller than that of Connecticut, in the US. Our population is also quite close, 2.8 million to 3.5 million. Connecticut has a governor, deputy governor, eight counties (parishes), five congressmen, and two senators. This data is provided to show that Jamaica’s government is much larger than need be.
We do not pay our senators, however we carry the burden of a bereft governor general, 60 members of parliament (MP), and 13 local government bodies of which their job descriptions are all opaque. Do not forget our many other government agencies that are too numerous to mention.
To reduce our spending, we need to reduce our government. We have a dire need to change the way we govern ourselves. Although a lengthy and tedious process, it is time we all put that which matter most to us all on the table and write our own Constitution – a constitution that will reflect who we are and address our concerns and ratified by Jamaicans, rich and poor alike. This will not make our problems disappear but will be a step in the right direction.
Let us start at the top and work our way down-stream where most of the problems show up. Reducing our government will save us millions in revenue that is much needed within our society, improving our chances of lifting ourselves out of the financial hole we are in.
It is necessary that we do something, especially in these times but not just anything. Finance ministers either increased taxes or looked towards borrowing (more) funds to fund the budget, the latter of which is the worst for the country. Taxes are necessary for a country to develop but an overtaxed nation is not a healthy one. The poor, who account for the majority of the population, will suffer greatly. The poor has less to give and should not be targeted.
Luxury items such as automobiles, property, and items not necessary for survival should be taxed at a greater percentage. For example, private automobiles, luxury boats, and property should be taxed annually. The full value of the property should be taxed. If a person owns land valued at $800,000 and builds a house on that land valued at $6.5 million, then the property should be taxed at $7.3 million. Any person owning property of that value is not poor.
Taxes collected from a local area should be spent in that area, or at-least the greater amount.
The recent gas levy introduced on us will be felt mostly by the poor as it will increase the price of all consumed goods. The minister should have instead increased the cost of private vehicle registration. This would have kept inflation relatively low and ensure the poor can continue to stay productive.
Consumption drives economies. If we learn how to consume then we will control our growth. Reducing foreign consumption and taxing the majority proportionally is perhaps what we need the most right now. The times call for great sacrifices and sacrifice we must. However, let us use this time of decreased growth and idleness to develop a blueprint that will create the nation we all want to live in. We are in dire need of a constitution that we all understand and agree with. The time is here and now. Let us use it wisely.