Kaieteur News – Mr. Kit Nascimento in a comment on the 2021 national estimates opined that if the budget is described as a budget for business what is wrong with that. It is a practical question, which has a practical answer. Simply put – what is wrong with a budget in a small, developing economy that is designed to facilitate investments?
The practical and pragmatic approach is that such an economy needs such a budget. You don’t have to shape the national estimates that allow different classes to benefit overwhelmingly over others. Thus, it is impractical to have a national budget where the rural and urban proletariat and the small peasantry receive immense concessions over other important sectors. The ancient Athenian philosophers once wrote that everything in life must be balanced.
I am an unashamed advocate of governments inputting socialist economic policies into governance. My class support is and has always been with the proletariat. But in the context of Guyana, how it evolved, its political and sociological stresses and its persistent underdeveloped economy, I would not rush to condemn Nascimento’s statement. I would have done that when I was a university freshman, but I have grown intellectually and my ideology has been refined and moderated since then.
I have been in the media for 32 years and have written several times of the admiration and sympathy I have for people who invest their money in a country, which makes it almost impossible to do business when compared with the rest of the world. I know this from my own existence living here all my life. I have no business experience except running my mother-in-law’s supermarket for six months.
It is not easy to invest in Guyana. A wealthy family like the Beharry Group of Companies complained publicly that after six months they were still to hear from City Hall on their application for a structure to accommodate a KFC outlet. Think of a huge business complex with water gushing into the building from a ruptured main where a fire is a distinct possibility, and GWI shows up the next day. When the fire occurs, the fire service comes the next day.
This columnist in November last year, spent five consecutive days trying to get the office of the director of veterinary and public health of the Ministry of Health to answer the phone. No one ever did. I tried for two consecutive weeks last November and got other people to call for me, to get the head of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA).
Each time the secretary said he was out of town. I didn’t get to talk to him.
Laparkan lost two cartons of cat food a friend sent for me. I ordered another shipment. It arrived but they lost that too. I ordered another shipment, they lost that too. Laparkan lost three shipments of cat food. Implorations from me succeeded in them finding two shipments. Imagine investing in such a country!
There is a downside to the Nascimento theory. The theory can only work if investors pay their taxes. US senator, Elizabeth Warren, accused Amazon of tax evasion. The richest man in the world owns Amazon. We come now to SOL, the fuel importation company. According to GRA documents, the Guyana government has lost $1.5 billion through SOL’s manipulation of their fuel importation regime.
What is involved here is simple mathematics. If SOL withholds two billion dollars from the Treasury, then that translates into poor police protection, non-working streetlights, dead traffic signals, scarcity of police vehicles, an understaffed GWI, GRA, GPL, EPA, shortage of imported medical machines, etc. Simply put – tax money runs the country. If there is no money from taxes, the country dies.
I read in the newspaper that a company will be putting up a hotel costing US$15 million at Robb and Oronoque Streets. That very company was fined G$1 million by the EPA for blocking the Pomeroon River with coconut shells from its operations. It asked the EPA for time to pay the money in installments. For more on that story see my column of Wednesday, July 24, 2019, “Coconut shells and Movie Towne: This shithole country.”
There is essentially nothing wrong with Nascimento’s observation. What is egregious and borders on insane depravity is a situation where the business world refuses to observe the law and pay their taxes. It is those taxes that make a country viable because the state spends money to keep it alive. The situation of Scandinavia is phenomenal. The state uses taxes to make people happy. Rich people should ask themselves where the police get their pay from to protect them.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper).
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