IF Trevor Sayers was a truly smart businessman he would begin peddling one of his bush magic anti-anxiety concoctions at the start of August.
Why you might ask? Budget time folks! Every year we are subject to a minimum of two months of bleak financial forecasts, more taxes, reduced subsidies and the persistent fear that our dollar will be devalued.
My husband is a perfect example of a budget anxious person. At least three weeks before the budget I tend to get the following;
“Babe! Babe! I think you should go to the grocery and stock up. Food prices are going up, I can feel it. Wait forget the grocery we are going to do a Pricesmart run, just stock up, grab what you can before prices soar.
“Babe! Babe! Is your gas tank full? Three quarters is not full. Go fill it up. Wait! Take these gas containers, fill those up too. Gas prices are going to be insane
“Babe! Babe! Do both your kidneys work? We may need to sell one on the black market. Forex shortages Alicia! Possible devaluation! One kidney will do you just fine! I’ve listed one of mine already!”
I’m kidding about the organ harvesting, but you get my drift.
Every year we anxiously wait for the arrival of the budget, presented by our Minister of Finance, who isn’t exactly the type of person who inspires a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Before I get too far into this, I think it would be remiss of me not to mention that I am in no way an economic expert and too much exposure to numbers causes my brain to short circuit. Henceforth I am speaking simply from my basic understanding of things.
If it is one thing every Trinbagonian fears come budget season is increasing taxes.
While we do pay a considerable amount of taxes whether it be income tax or Value Added Tax on all of our purchases, we have managed to pay less tax than many of our other Caribbean counter parts due to subsidies afforded to us by our energy sector.
Unfortunately, oil and gas doesn’t last forever. We haven’t had a big find recently. Thanks to the pandemic the demand for oil and gas is low, therefore so are the prices. Add all of this to the global shift away from fossil fuels and the increased focus on clean, renewable energies, we have to come to terms that Government cannot afford the subsidies it once did.
Now until we develop a more sustainable revenue plan not completely tethered to the oil and gas industry, the Government has to find a quick way to drum up some cash.
Cue the calls of the tax man.
Property tax is coming and will be implemented. We are one of the few countries that do not have property taxes and one way or another it’s going to happen.
I do not particularly oppose property tax or any tax really (other than the online shopping tax… that agitates me), my issue and I think the issue of the majority of TT is we need to see value for our money.
The Ministry of Finance hopes to raise $1 billion annually with property tax and sadly I fear that that money will make very little difference in the quality of public services or infrastructure.
Dude, I have no problem paying property tax, but if I am paying this tax, I do not expect to have to regularly replace the shocks on my car due the abyss like potholes I have to dodge daily, nor do I expect to see the community grounds in my area completely overgrown.
Likewise with all other services our tax dollars pay for, if you are asking me to pay more tax, I am asking you to show me they are being used to the benefit of the country.
I would like to see the CT scanners at our hospitals working, I would like to see every public school properly equipped with what is needed to ensure our children excel, I would like to have a regular supply of water and I would like to see some sort of progress in our nation.
It is true you cannot tax a nation into prosperity but realistically we cannot afford to depend on the earnings of our oil and gas sector to provide the way it once did.
What needs to be done is a total economic overhaul. We need to invest in agriculture and food processing to lower our import bill and make food more affordable.
We need to look into green energy initiatives.
We need to focus on IT and technology.
We need to look into manufacturing.
We need to ensure our future generations are educated and trained in these ventures rather than focusing on the struggling energy sector.
We need to adapt.
It ain’t the 1970’s anymore.
I say bring on your taxes Colm! But make sure I get value for my money.
Make sure tax brackets are fair and loopholes are closed so we don’t end up with a bunch of Trumps boasting millionaire lifestyles and paying pennies in taxes.
You want more. I want more and I want to see my country grow and become smarter, so that one day we may be strong enough to pry our lips from the teat of the energy sector.