The country does not need oil dollars in view of the tax revenues not collected

Dear Editor,

The word from the GRA confirmed old suspicions and settled beliefs: tens of billions lost annually through the actions of tax cheats.  Those tens of billions tell a lot of the thousands of swindlers who rob this country blind, and have been doing so with impunity for years, if not decades.

Tax felons (if not so categorized and viewed as of now, they should be) are not the working poor, or the army of minimum wage toilers, or those who earn barely enough to get by.  If all of the lowest rungs of the economic ladder were tax evaders, the damage to the national treasury would be nowhere near a billion, much less tens of those very big ones.  Rather, these real tax tricksters are establishment people who come in many apparitions: middle class vagabonds, commercial crooks, and nouveau riche narcocrats.  Many times, they are all rolled into one.  To observe them and listen to them is to be witness before an array of façades that fail to disguise the opulent rackets run, and for which there is no such thing as tax obligations. Their cover stories have now assumed the singsong of a practised chant: business is slow; profit is low; and cash is short.  They are not only tax cheats, but chronic liars too.  I suppose the two go together.

Editor, here is a thought or two: The taxes not paid permit sumptuous life-styles; the taxes not paid guarantee unfathomable prosperity. Though both lifestyles and prosperity have become more careful these days. And the taxes not paid, had a lot left over to facilitate filling the treasuries of wily unscrupulous leaders and groups through lavish contributions.  Such comes under the heading of political donations; they are off-the-books and a public secret as of this writing.

In view of the tax revenues not collected, the country does not need oil revenues; it should just prioritize going after the defaulters.  They form part of the regular crowd.  These would be the resourceful citizens who divert and withhold from the GRA other peoples PAYE deductions (and NIS, too); personal purposes take priority.  Also, the same ones who roll in fat, have a problem with VAT.  It could be paying for themselves or handing over what was charged and belongs to the state.  Further, they have other problems including parking meters and visas.

Some will disagree, but the biggest robbers in this society are not those armed with pistols and on motorbikes, but those making speeches (or listening to them) in air-conditioned surroundings, and armed with PowerPoint presentations and pens.  On second thoughts, better make the latter pencils, as they accommodate erasing or stirring the numbers.  By now it is widely accepted that the smartest tax thieves (they are serial ones) are those blowing their noses the loudest and shedding the most tears.  Not to be outdone, the political heels who provided insulation for them and benefited immensely from them are the largest crocodiles in the public pond.  They are crying, too. Those who once exemplified the law of rule today talk from the side of their mouths about the rule of law.

This government and Commissioner General Statia must remember that it was only when the British gained significant ground in putting their arms around the revenue collection apparatus in colonial India that they really commenced in governing a vast, cacophonous, and hostile landscape.  Last, and in somewhat of a digression, if some of the schools are cheating on their taxes, then what brand of ethics are they teaching the children? I think that the media is doing the nation a disservice by not naming them.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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