by Lipton Matthews
Taxes are reportedly used for the provision of public services, but politicians must not use this reason to impose unfair taxes. One such tax is the property tax, which supposedly goes directly to Parish Councils.
According to council officials, the property tax is responsible for constructing parochial roads, the maintenance of drains and financing garbage collection. But contrary to public opinion the termination of this tax will not disrupt the provision of public services.
Presently, Jamaica has one of the most rigid tax systems in the world, according to international auditors PriceWaterhouse Coopers. Doingbusiness.org ranks us as among the most difficult places on Earth to pay taxes. Therefore it should be the government’s intention to improve the taxation system in order to achieve greater compliance.
There is no need for a property tax to construct roads parochial roads, Jamaicans are already overtaxed and overburdened by the State. If and when the Central Government refines its IT infrastructure, they will find that more taxes will be paid into their coffers, and reliance on a property tax to maintain local roads will not be necessary.
Although there currently exists a property tax, many drains in poor communities are not being adequately repaired and since these residents are not major landowners they do not pay a property tax. So why should complaint overtaxed Jamaican pay for a service that he does not need?
If we were to abolish the property tax, and change the nature of the Constituency Development Fund then public services will be improved. For example, the Constituency Development Fund, functions as a trough for garrison politicians and their dependents, hence the repeated calls for it to be repealed.
But I differ from mainstream thought. Instead of repealing the fund it should be used to improve the built environment and the fact that a cash-strapped administration is able to waste J$75 million on pork barrel projects, under the guise of Christmas programmes, it is an indication to taxpayers that politicians are willing to use their money to advance their political popularity. Adequatley equipping the CDF with adequate resources will not be a problem.
The National Solid Waste Management Authority is inefficient and the service is untenable, so a more competitive garbage disposal sector is in the best interest of consumers. Due to the company’s uncompetitive pricing policy and mismanagement, the agency is unable to maintain its vehicles, therefore there is a great reliance on private contractors which were owed $761 million this year.
Privatizing the NSWMA and encouraging competition would not only result in a better service for consumers, but the company would be free from political cronyism and citizens will no longer be forced to pay a property tax. Like most local government bodies, the St.Elizabeth Parish Council is raking up losses in the millions. Not unlike the property tax, local government is also irrelevant and taxpayers can no longer afford to have the local parish councils.
Furthermore, the development approval process is quite tardy because of the bureaucracy of local government; and because most local government officials are not trained in procurement procedures the problem becomes more complicated. Abolishing local government and privatizing the development approval process would make it easier to do business in Jamaica and eliminating the property tax could spark a boom in sectors like tourism and construction.
Citizens should not be fooled, local government will not improve a participatory democracy, less government equals more freedom and the property tax is noting more than an income redistribution programme.