This is a country in which you cannot win. I would describe an ugly incident and I would name an eminent citizen who witnessed it. The next day people would come up to you and say why did you cite names. But if I had used the word, “businessman” without a name, then you would hear the story was a made up one, because I couldn’t cite real people. You learn to live with the mental travesties of this nation so you just carry on with your work.
I am citing two names here so my story can be verified. Four days ago, I was typing my column, and blackout came. I was so angry that I called Nigel McKenzie, the deputy editor of this newspaper and fumed at this state of affairs – blackouts continue and VAT is now on electricity usage. I went back to type my article hours later. You are not going to believe it – blackout came again. That was four days ago.
Last Sunday morning I am typing my column, the electricity went. I was livid. I called Adam Harris right away to tell him how disastrous this VAT thing on electricity is going to turn out for the government. Adam suggested I buy a back-up system to save my data. I told Adam I have that, but I will not have use of the internet to send my column to Kaieteur News. I went back hours later to continue my column. You are not going to believe this – blackout came again.
For Sunday, December 11, we had disruption three times. On Monday morning, my wife is preparing breakfast, and I am on the verandah playing with my dog. My wife doesn’t drink coffee; she prefers tea. She yelled out; “Come and make your coffee before blackout comes.” She was referring to perk coffee. I make my own drip coffee. I have to use electricity of course. This is what we have lived with in Guyana for almost four decades.
Any school child will tell you; people were mad with the PPP regime because of unstoppable electricity outages. It will be the same with the APNU+AFC Coalition. Any schoolboy will tell you that GPL is not going to be a receptacle of reliable service now or in the near future. Why then would the government want to put VAT on a service that it cannot deliver? It simply means that you are going to invoke the hatred of people each time blackout comes.
I left Kaieteur News on Sunday evening at around 18.20 hours. When I reached Church and Wellington Streets, blackouts were everywhere. The only lights on the streets were coming from an event from the Indian Monument Garden opposite St. Rose’s High School. If the government has to raise revenue, then that is understandable.
My point is why not on the roads we use? Why not on the schools we send our children to? Why not on police stations we have to visit? The roads are there. The school buildings are there. The police stations are there. Electricity is not there. So why put VAT on electricity?
This has to be a random act that the government did not think through. Again I ask the question – why would a government put VAT on a service that it cannot deliver? As an academic I have to answer these questions if they are asked of me. To answer why VAT on electricity usage, I think the answer lies in the theory of the Overdeveloped State. I have described and analyzed this theory quite often in these columns, and I did say I will resort to explaining it from time to time.
Invented by the Pakistani political theorist, Hamza Alavi, he showed where the colonial state had to be coterminous with the entire society, because the colonial rulers needed a large coercive apparatus to keep the colonial subjects in check. The object of the Overdeveloped State was for security and administrative purposes, not for the delivery of goods and services to the local population.
Alavi argued that the post-colonial leaders inherited the Overdeveloped State and are happy to preserve it in its pristine form, because it serves the same purpose to them as it did to the foreign colonial masters. The Overdeveloped State is not about serving the needs of the society. It was never conceived for that purpose.
This explains why in post-colonial countries, the police machinery is more coercive than service-oriented. The object of VAT on electricity is to raise money. The provision of service was never a concern when VAT was put on our kilowatts.
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