VAT on electricity will encourage those with illegal connections to keep stealing current

Dear Editor,

I laud the Minister of Finance for his recently discovered and announced interest in the conservation of electricity and water, precious and scarce commodities both.  While some question the Prime Minister’s claim that 80% of GPL subscribers fall below that fateful consumption line, I prefer to extend the benefit of the doubt for the time being.  Nonetheless, I must part company with these two esteemed political figures in the method selected (14% VAT) to prompt lower usage from high kilowatt citizens.

First, I agree that the 14% slap is heavy enough to compel the needed discipline from those already below the $10,000 line to stay there.

It is know the equivalent of your place or pay the price.  Second, I assert that this same 14% addition will further incentivize and entrench the small army of citizens with illegal connections to maintain their sturdily resistant presence outside the official GPL transmission grids.

If they were not paying before, they are not going to pay now.  Third, the rest of the conscientious and honest citizens are paying for the leakage through electricity brigandage that goes unaddressed for the most part by the relevant authority.  Fourth, I can assure the two well-intentioned politicos that many in that 20% have already implemented their own conservation approaches, but there is only so far that these efforts go; I am certain that the Minister would not want a significant area of the Guyana horizon to exhibit the electrical ambience of a deserted graveyard, or that of a thinly occupied squatting area.

Fifth, the citizens above that $10,000 line in the sand are not at, say, $15,000 monthly, but at multiples of the exemption point.  This is not a matter of convenience, it is a matter of quality of life.  I did say many of the 20%, and not all, as there are those whose money did not come the hard way, and therefore it does not matter how it is unloaded, VAT or no VAT.  It goes without saying that those whose earnings came through sweat and tears do not need to be counselled on conservation.

Sixth, and as an aside, I recall that New York drivers were subjected to steady increases in bridge tolls to enter Manhattan.  One objective was to reduce gasoline consumption, and another was to ease congestion in a very crowded space.

The difference between there and here was that there were choices, inclusive of subway, buses, carpooling, and telecommuting.  Here in Guyana, introducing the VAT bar leaves the twenty per cent people with no choice but to take a deep breath (one more) and dig deep in the pocket to shell out to an increasingly demanding and rapacious government.  After all, candles and lanterns are not likely options.

But there is one escape valve for those so inclined and equipped.

It is what I now take the liberty of sharing with the budget craftsmen and the higher powers: I can assure all of them in the government that many are now considering worshipping at the altar of Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god.  I have already retrieved the trustworthy old abacus, and I am doing the calculations on the length of recovery of potential sunk costs.  Incidentally, that sun god is today known as solar power.

It is time that I consider joining the ranks of the converted, and isolate myself further from the mainstream.


Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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