The mechanic said to me,
“I don’t have much to say. I’s just keep my head down an’ do what I could to survive, cuz them people don’t talk no sense. They wan’ keep spennin’ an’ borrowin’ money an’ then when they need money they tell the people to sacrifice. So why they don’t sacrifice? Why they don’t stop promisin’ stuff they cyan afford ‘till they could afford it? No. They know they could always put it on the people.”
What incredible insight, I thought (probably because it mirrored my own views). The increase in the VAT is not about a number – 12% or 15% – or about any International standards or what our neighbours do or don’t do. It’s about the Government’s plans for the next while, how much they will cost and how they intend to pay for them.
Like each of us, the Government has obligations – salaries, rent, maintenance etc. – for which they must raise money. Also like us, the Government has stuff -new stuff, trips, ceremonies- it would like to do or buy for which money must be set aside. But unlike us, the Government does not have to worry about running out of money. They, you see, have a fairy godfather/mother. It is us. We provide them with the additional money they need either through taxes or by allowing them to borrow in our name with our commitment to repay. Unlike us, they do not have to worry about what they can or cannot afford.
So, as our agents, you would expect them to tell us when we can’t afford stuff so we don’t have to borrow money or pay higher taxes unnecessarily. Wouldn’t that be the responsible thing to do?
The answer is that they have the excuse that they are the victims of our selfishness and lack of discipline. We demand stuff from Government with absolutely no concern for cost, then judge Government’s “performance” by the extent to which we get those things. Public discussions about whether Government should lay people off or not, for example, make no allowance for the fact that those people must be paid if they are kept on the payroll. And their union will not even discuss lowering salaries to keep them on. So we demand that Government both hire more people and pay them higher salaries.
We demand better utilities, cheaper homesites, more Government services and social programs and imagine these things will not affect our personal pocket-books. After all, our Government has a social conscience. We even ignore the fine print in the announcement in the newspaper that says “This is a loan” from the “generous” international agency.
In fact, we hear the term “National Debt” and are unmoved by the staggering increases. Our “experts” tell us we are doing better than our friends, so we can afford to borrow more to get more “stuff”.
The increase in the VAT is a wake-up call. We could choose to continue this undisciplined spending and pay for it in increased taxes to fund higher levels of unemployment (as businesses fail because of higher operating costs), higher grocery bills to pay for untaxed essentials and a greater disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. But we would have more “stuff” to brag about.
Unfortunately, we talk about “leadership” as though we expect those in front-line politics to help us out of this pattern. That can never happen. Politicians have one overarching concern; getting re-elected. When campaigning, they promise whatever they believe we want (not need). When they become the Government, if they wish to remain the Government, they must deliver, or at least appear to deliver on those promises. So for them the clock is always ticking. They must spend as much of your money in five years as possible to give you stuff, so that you will return them next time around. There is no limit to what they can afford, because they can always borrow in your name or take more from you in taxes.
So it’s not about the VAT. It’s about whether we have the discipline to demand that our Government buy only what we decide we can afford or that we have the commitment to pay for the things we really believe we need to have RIGHT NOW.
(Unfortunately, as the only country in the world without a vehicle for citizen participation in governance, we will never really have that discussion, will we?)
Posted here with the kind permission of the author. Read the original article here...