Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Can the poor take any more?

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Jamaica Observer | Monday, February 18, 2013 
SOME of us Jamaicans live good lives, as witnessed by the social pages in our press. Some live terrible lives, as witnessed by the nightly newscasts. We saw the valiant Marvin Campbell, St Ann manager of the Jamaica Public Service Company, explaining to Steer Town residents that illegal power connections were not just a financial issue, but also that they are dangerous.

Illegal connections to JPS power supply
 Sadly, danger is a way of life in the inner city. A man said he, his lady and six children were living in a one-room dwelling, so 'what we going to do?' One woman who was asked by the Jamaica Observer about the Government's tax package seemed diffident - she was unemployed. We heard a mother mention to a reporter that she had cooked dinner for a 33-year-old man who allegedly had been co-habiting in a neighbouring house with her 16-year-old daughter. Her child had been stabbed to death by the said man, who has been held by the Police.

We should not be living like this!
 On a weekend visit to a resort a few months ago, we met a Canadian couple who were so impressed with a young waiter that they asked to visit his family. They were shocked at their poor circumstances, but impressed by his dignified parents and young brother. They hosted them for a weekend at the hotel, and were moved by the simple things which were regarded as luxuries by the rural family: a flush toilet, a private shower, separate beds.
- from CaribJournal.com
 And so we say to our well-dressed, well-housed, well-guarded leaders: why, after 50 years of Independence in a tiny, well-endowed country does it take a foreigner to introduce the family of a hard-working man, to such a basic facility as a flush toilet? Is it because the folks who have sworn to uplift their people are too busy playing solitaire in meetings, as in that photo tweeted Thursday night by a fellow Jamaican?

Oliver Samuels
 This country could have been humming like a well-oiled machine decades ago, were it not for the misplaced priorities of our leaders. Here we are sitting on the gold mine that is Brand Jamaica, worrying about the repayment of rising debt. We brag about Jamaica trending after our Super Bowl buzz, the Bob Marley tribute at the Grammys and we have done so little about this opportunity. We should be planning a 'Talk Jamaica' World Tour with Oliver Samuels, Bello & Blacka, Joan Andrea Hutchinson, Ity & Fancy Cat and some of our wonderful artistes and bands. Could Jampro get this going?

I see packaged dried mangoes selling for good US dollars, yet mangoes rot on the ground every season. Distant New Zealand has found a way to make kiwis the rage, yet our delicious naseberries remain unknown, and we are a hop away from Miami.

No, I will not believe a particular critic who told me of our Cabinet members that "they are just plain lazy and arrogant - they are not interested in doing anything for Jamaica". When I called the names of my favourite ministers they scoffed saying, "They won't say a thing - they're too busy protecting their corner".

Sushil Jain
 Clearly, it is time for the private sector to ensure that this proposed oversight committee announced by the finance minister will have teeth - no one can be comfortable with this widening gap between rich and poor. At a meeting of PSOJ members on Friday morning, financial guru Sushil Jain observed that US President Barack Obama mentioned support for the middle class about 10 times in his State of the Union Address. "You can only grow the economy if you grow the middle class," he said.

Don Wehby
 For those who thumb their noses at the PSOJ, they should know that one has to be tax- compliant to be a PSOJ member and that these folks are responsible for the billions of dollars of revenue that flow into government's coffers, to build and light our roads, and pipe our water. GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby pointed out that 70 per cent of corporate taxes was paid by one per cent of Jamaican corporations.

Instead of overburdening this group and taxing raw materials that are necessary to keep factories open and Jamaicans employed, we need to hear more about tax compliance. Two major manufacturers at the meeting noted that if taxes were imposed on molasses and corn, there would be a terrible fallout - a death knell for one business and a punishing increase for consumers. Can the poor take any more?

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