Sustained prosperity requires sacrifice

March 31, 2017
Joslyn McKenzie in the community of Logwood, St Thomas.

Sustained prosperity in any country requires sacrifice. If you look at the history of many of the great countries in this world, you will see that its people endured great personal sacrifices to enable those countries to become economic powers or just great places to live.

Jamaicans have endured many sacrifices since Independence 55 years ago. Among the sacrifices endured by the people has been the constant string of politicians who really don't know what they're doing.

To be fair, some have had good intentions, but their execution has been appalling at best. These new land tax measures are, to me, an example of that.

People come to own land by inheritance or by people saving to buy a little plot that they hope to build a home on one day.

 

POOR GOVERNANCE

 

Because of poor governance, the necessary adjustments in land value has lagged many years behind and, as such, government has never been able to collect the relevant taxes which has contributed to continued shortfall in annual budgets.

But to now impose the adjusted value pretty much all at once, is nothing short of madness.

I have seen reports of property tax going up by more than 1,000 per cent. People paying, like, maybe $50,000 annually, in some instances are now required to pay close to a million dollars!

Now, let's say John Brown owns a plot of land that he inherited and which has seen its value skyrocket more than 1,000 per cent under this new regime.

And, let's say Mr Brown runs a little business or has a job with the Government that pays him J$1.3 million a year.

He basically lives hand-to-mouth each month and has about $50,000 saved in the bank or credit union.

Under the new regime, he is now required to pay J$900,000 in land tax. What does he do? How does he manage to hold on to his land in which he has equity and not lose it because he cannot afford to pay the suddenly exorbitant taxes?

I am told he could appeal and demonstrate that he can't afford it and he could get the taxes waived, but doesn't that defeat the purpose of the increased taxes?

I am just thinking that there can be a better way to do this. The value could have been increased on a phased basis, giving people more time to adjust. Or there could be some other way outside of possibly having to sell the property just to get out from under this new burdensome regime.

People have to pay their taxes, I know. But isn't potentially losing property that has been in your family for decades too great a sacrifice?

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