JLP's income tax proposal misunderstood

March 11, 2016
Andrew Holness

In the news this week there was this interesting story that there are unemployed people out there who believe that come April 1, they will be able to start collecting cheques for $18,000.

A colleague of mine revealed on social media that persons at a football match he was covering were asking where they should go to collect this windfall each month.

This ludicrous idea apparently stems from the conversations people have been having surrounding the proposal by the now ruling party to eliminate income tax for those persons earning salaries of $1.5 million a year and below.

Since the Jamaica Labour Party announced this proposal as part of their 10-point plan, the nation has been debating whether it is a workable proposal or pie in the sky. As far as I am concerned, we will just have to wait and see because like every plan, there are potential pitfalls.

But how does one deduce from what was being said or written that the plan would involve people who are not working collecting monthly cheques of $18,000?

Things like that make me wonder how such a simple concept could be sailing so far over the heads of people living in a modern world. I mean, I get that there are a lot of functional illiterates out there. I get that there are people who don't read and that there are those who are limited in their thinking, but how does one conclude that significantly increasing a tax threshold equates to the unemployed picking up monthly cheques because of it?

How does so much get lost in translation? It just doesn't make sense, but not much in Jamaica makes sense anymore.

 

ONE FOOL MAKES MANY

 

Then again, this just might be a case of one fool making fools of many. Someone who didn't understand what was being discussed somehow believed that the tax break would apply to people who are not earning anything. That person then sold the idea to someone who was similarly intellectually challenged, and before long, what started out as a rumour based on misinformation became a fact among the many desperate souls here in the land of wood and water.

If that is the case, then it's very troubling that people are so desperate that they are willing to believe anything even if it makes absolutely no sense at all.

My colleague also reported that he tried explaining to a woman, who approached him about the $18,000, that only people earning $1.5 million or below would benefit. According to him, she asked why rich people should be given an extra $18,000. What this woman's question suggests is that there is a huge gap in this country between poor and dirt poor.

 

POOR IS RELATIVE

 

Most people earning a gross salary of $125,000 monthly are poor. The take-home pay is closer to $90,000 or about US$740. Once you pay rent, utilities, and buy some groceries, you are basically living by the grace of God until the next pay cheque. You have to stagger lunch each week. It comes down to what days you can afford to go hungry for the entire day.

But as they say, everything is relative. To someone earning nothing, $1.5 million a year is a lot of money. And, living hand-to-mouth is much better than the lives they currently lead.

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