Dining on the French Riviera with your favourite race horse
Some types of revelations are not good for the heart, irrespective of your age; you can suffer an attack. Maybe a seizure. One of the richest men in Guyana (he will be quite comfortable by Caribbean standards and of course is a multi-millionaire in American terms) paid four million dollars in company tax for the year just ended in April.
In terms of personal income tax, what we call Pay As You Earn (PAYE), he paid less than a senior police officer or colonel in the army.
What is sickening about this situation is not the man himself and the tax authorities that should pursue him, but the international institutions and western embassies that pour money into this country. Guyana, using any international measure, is a very poor country and hardly one that has a modern, impressive infrastructure.
Guyana is an obscure player on the world scene (it had a huge role internationally when Forbes Burnham was the President). It has no geo-strategic value to the great powers, particularly its superpower neighbour, the US.
Though the US may fear Chavez’s growing influence in the Caribbean region, it is doubtful it will see Guyana as a strategic asset and pour money into it as it did during the Cold War. In 1980, Guyana was the highest recipient of US aid per capita (remember – per capita).
Guyana is a country that depends heavily on funding from international agencies. The IDB, EU and World Bank are major sources of income for this poor, Third World land. It boggles the mind that US and European diplomats and high officials of these lending agencies do not remonstrate with the Guyanese ruling directorate on the horrible tax evasion system that robs Guyana of the opportunity to seriously remove the cancer of poverty.
Tax evasion in this country amounts to more than twenty billion dollars annually. It is a tragedy when one thinks of how much money that is to an impoverished country with a small population.
Surely, the World Bank and IMF can request confidential information on tax collection as a precondition for financial assistance to the economy of Guyana. When you consider the hemorrhage of money from tax evasion, then you have to conclude that we are in a fascist state of affairs in this land when the Maxwell factor is conjured up.
Godwin Maxwell was a small (God, very small) dance organizer who held a yearly bash in Calcutta, Mahaicony. It is the kind of stuff other governments around the world would ignore. The GRA charged him with tax evasion (God, how much they expected to collect; not more than fifty thousand dollars for the three years they cited).
Maxwell was a parochial kind of guy who hardly interacted with modern society (the villager who never left the village). He probably thought that Magistrates are people who order your execution.
When placed before the Mahaicony Magistrate, on hearing that he was put on bail then on hearing that bail could not be secured by his family, fear of imprisonment destroyed his mind and he broke loose from the police escort and jumped into the creek where he died.
He left behind six children, the youngest being a baby, and a wife. The most modern and competent institution in the entire world, the Guyana Revenue Authority, promised an inquest into the Maxwell harassment. That was three years ago.
I ran into the GRA lawyer who charged Maxwell at the Court of Appeal a few weeks ago. She is the Registrar of the Court of Appeal. The next step for her is judgeship. No one knows what steps Maxwell’s family took to survive.
Of course the GRA tried a Maxwell thing with me. Twice they wrote Kaieteur News to find out how much I get for my columns. But they refuse to make any inquiry into the tax evasion of the super wealthy in Guyana who import everything they eat and wear from foreign countries.
I would never forget that Malcolm Harripaul told me that a rich Guyanese family imports pastries, bread and water. These tax evaders buy the most expensive SUVs, shop at foreign boutiques and organize their birthday parties in foreign territories. Yet senior police and army officers pay more PAYE than these ‘La Dolce Vita’ creatures.
And the story continues – this impoverished nation goes with the begging bowl to foreign countries citing poverty as a factor. Three years ago, then PM of Jamaica, Bruce Golding referred to Guyana as an international beggar. Have you ever tasted foreign rain water? Ask the rich tax evaders who import it.