Prior to the cancellation of the Chris Brown show, the Minister of Tourism, Mr Ifraan Ali held a joint press conference with Hits and Jams, the promoters of the show and informed the public about how the Christmas package, which was apparently centred around this mega show, would be of tremendous value to the local economy. The Minister, in much excitement, related how the government would provide tax breaks for Chris Brown and other artistes associated with this supposedly mega Christmas season affair. We have since learnt that there is a cancellation of this mega-show.
I have paid keen attention to the local news since then but have not seen the Minister speak to the people of the possible disadvantages which would follow as a result of the cancellation of the show. Just as he boasted of the possible economic gains he claims the show would have brought, he also has a responsibility to report to the people about the specific economic loss expected as a result of the no-show. This for me speaks to real accountability and respect for the people.
I do not believe that anyone took Minister Ali seriously when he boasted of this major tourism boost and economic upturn that the Chris Brown show would have caused; what we saw was him engaging in the usual PPP/C propaganda charade. We understand clearly where the monies from these shows might end up, and how the expenses will be documented. The last Carifesta was more than four years ago and to date there appears to be no clear-cut accounting, and the economic and cultural benefits derived have not been itemized or described.
Since the Minister and the government seem to be able to calculate the intrinsic value to be had from granting tax breaks to these international artistes and promoters, they must be able to calculate the tremendous economic, social, psychological and moral value a nation gains when the majority of its people are respected by their leaders and are able to experience some economic comfort, even if it is just for a period. I would therefore find it incomprehensible if the government fails to accept that VAT has been more than a burden to ordinary Guyanese. In fact, many of the last campaign speeches by the then candidate, now President Donald Ramotar, pointed to an understanding of that fact. I believe that it is only fitting then, that the people get a tax break from VAT, especially during this festive season. It is no secret that many of our people, during this season, receive their largest barrels from relatives or friends overseas. These are not merely goodies or indulgences but in most instances are necessities for the family, necessities which they cannot afford all year round. However, too often many of those families can hardly find the money to pay to retrieve their barrels or boxes, due largely to the high cost attached. In the circumstances, then, one would expect a caring, understanding and sensitive government with a conscience to be mindful of this situation and render some relief to its people. We might not be an international artiste or promoter who easily gains their favour, but at least we are people who also deserve to live. Can the Chris Brown tax break be converted to a tax break for ordinary Guyanese?