“Death and paying taxes “are the two things most certain in life, declared Benjamin Franklin, one of the most celebrated American founding fathers: statesman, businessman, scientist. economist, musician, diplomat, writer, humorist, civic leader – a genius of his time.
But really, it does not take a genius to understand that without efficiency in tax collection no government, whether national or local, can provide the goods and services essential to the well being of the people.
Let’s take the City of Georgetown. The government claims that one taxpayer, the PNCR, has not paid the city Government over 100 million dollars, in rates and taxes . Now, in the absence of any official list of debtors, anyone can assume that other businesses, big and small and a whole bunch of individual city residents also owe assessed taxes on their properties, which when aggregated, may also run into millions of dollars. Taxes are not paid, the city becomes broke, the city workers cannot be paid, so garbage piles up, diseases spread and soon more people die. Death, other than by old age, increases when tax collection is reduced.
The national Government has recently “bailed out” the city government with 140 million dollars which money has come from taxpayers who have paid their share of taxes. What this means is that the national government now has less money to spend on things like better roads, traffic control and education, better health facilities, better crime control, among other things- and so more people will die. And if those that die are the bread winners of a household, then there will be more poverty leading to so many bad things including more crime and more deaths. All because of taxes not being collected.
Mayor Hamilton Green has emphasised that the tax base should be expanded. But merely increasing taxes will literally kill the almost half dead tax paying residents. The first priority here is to devise a strategy to get the people to pay taxes owed. The central government should start treating the present mayor with more respect in dealing with him and the city council instead of dealing with the town clerk and council members. I am sure that with mutual respect, a list of debtors can be made available and an efficient tax collection worked out.
And in the long run a more comprehensive systems approach to city taxation and tax collection can be formulated.
Minister Lall conveys the impression that if there is a better mayor the financial problems of the city will be solved. But whether the mayor is Hamilton Green or Hamesh Girdharry, things will not change for the better unless the current local government laws are revised. To begin with, the mayor should be the real boss of the city and given the power and authority to govern with the city council, not the town clerk and the Minister.
He is “His Excellency the Mayor” of the capital city of Georgetown. Secondly, irrespective of party affiliation the mayor and city councillors should govern the city for and on behalf of the residents, irrespective of party affiliation. It will always be politics, but at least let it be non-partisan politics in the interest of the people. Besides, this city is the supposed to be the showpiece of the country. Visitors judge Guyana by what they see and are exposed to in Georgetown.
Messrs Lall and Green should really make every effort to work together in the spirit of Ben Franklin and ensure that city taxes are collected.