Monday, April 27, 2009
A worker at the Ellingsen Seafood AS salmon farm in the cold north, near Lofoten, Norway. (Hubie Chin photo)
Jamaica Observer Column |Monday, April 27, 2009
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
"I pay a lot of taxes, but I pay it with a smile." A statement like this would cause consternation in Jamaica where for too many years, too few have been carrying the tax burden for too many. This happy taxpayer is Norwegian marketing executive Svein Wara who informed me that the Norwegian counterpart of our GCT, the VAT (Value Added Tax) is 25 per cent, and that those in the higher income bracket pay 30 to 35 per cent in income tax.
So why would he be smiling? In Norway, health care is virtually free, with only a small contribution, even in the case of serious conditions that require expensive treatments. Education up to 10th grade is absolutely free and after that, tuition continues to be free up to the tertiary level, though students are required to pay for their books.
Crime is so low in Norway that in a large area called Lofoten, there are only two unarmed policemen at the station during the week and four on weekends. People leave their doors open and it is a given that no one will steal their belongings.
"Norway was a poor country until the 60s when we discovered oil," remarks Svein. "It was then that we had a social revolution, a programme to protect our natural resources for the common good of the people. We are a social democracy."
Up to the 60s, Norway had a working-class society with only a few very rich individuals, many of them shipping magnates. There were also cases of people with hidden fortunes who would evade taxes. Now the tax system is so open that you can look up any Norwegian worker and see their salary and tax status. "I'm on the web - you can look me up!" says Svein as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Tough traffic and gun laws are testimony of the high value that this country puts on human life. The allowable amount of liquor in a driver's system is .02/1000 or less than the equivalent in one beer. A first offender for drunk driving pays a heavy fine of about $400,000 upwards, depending on income, spends a mandatory 21 days in jail and has his driver's licence suspended for two years. If you are proved to be driving drunk a second time, it's farewell forever to the steering wheel, plus the same fine and sentence as the first time.
(click on title above for link to entire column)