It was surprising to many how Jamaicans responded to the tax measures announced by the Government in the April supplementary budget. Even the Government had expected some amount of street protest over the gas tax.
The Jamaican people have demonstrated that they understand the effects of the global recession and are appreciative of the difficulties faced by the Government in keeping the Jamaican ship afloat.
However, most Jamaicans are disappointed, shocked and angry with the Government over the December tax package, the third in nine months. The Government is now on a collision course with its people. A survey of our history would indicate that Jamaica today possess some of the explosive features of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, the social unrest of 1932 and the gas riots of 1999.
These features include increased economic hardship, high levels of unemployment, increased social inequality and class division, an unbearable tax burden, recalcitrant and seemingly oppressive government.
What we have today is an explosion waiting to happen, a social unrest of immense proportion in the making. Good sense must prevail. The Government must immediately demonstrate that it hears the people’s cry and feel their pain. Before the implementation of any new taxes and the signing of an IMF agreement, the prime minister must immediately convene a national summit consisting of representatives of the Government, the Opposition, the private sector, the unions and civil society with the aim of crafting a shared short- and medium-term response to our economic and social plight.
In the meantime, the Opposition and the unions should let good sense prevail and abstain from instigating or organising any mass street protest. The country is on the precipice of economic and social collapse; let us not push it over the edge.