Govt needs to regain public confidence
THE DECISION BY CABINET to adjust the municipal solid waste tax is a welcome one, and the Government is to be complimented on having the good political and economic sense to have made so speedy an announcement. It will silence some of the more vocal of its critics.
If the voice of the people is as the voice of God, then it was only a matter of time before the outcry against the more rigid aspects of the tax were modified, since as someone said not so long ago, the business of politics is akin to that of a popularity contest. Given that truth, no Government worth its salt would have continued on a path that would have caused ruin to its political capital.
What is of greater moment is the partial turnaround of Government policy as it affects the bottom line of the budgeted revenue to be recovered from the tax. If the official policy was not to grant any exemptions or discounts but only to look at hardship cases after payment of the tax, then the new concessions will distort the anticipated inflows from the tax.
In its present situation, the Government would have been anticipating as full a recovery as possible and this new development, though very welcome, may well open the administration to charges of ad-hocism in its policy on the solid waste tax.
One expects that when new taxes are to be imposed, the proposals undergo the analytical scrutiny of the Ministry of Finance before the tax even sees the light of day, and that no impositions are imposed willy-nilly or on the basis of unsubstantiated estimates.
It now seems as if the policy has taken a hit in those areas which under proper scrutiny should have stood out as red flags to serious policy planners before the policy and the bill were exposed to the public.
That there has been widespread complaint about the tax makes it less likely that this policy and the tax will be welcomed with any degree of empathetic understanding; and public understanding and acceptance of Government policy at this time is needed if the Government is to go forward with those elements of fiscal policy which it touts will bring long-term gain on the back of short-term pain.
We understand the problems facing the Government as a whole on the fiscal deficit. We also believe the public recognizes that some effort must be made to put wrong things right. But the chorus of complaints and downright dissent heard on the tax should convince the Government that blanket impositions such as the solid waste tax may satisfy Government’s expectations only if they exhibit a human face.
Taxes are necessary, and some taxes are more necessary than others! The municipal solid waste tax is one of the most necessary, given the hole into which we have dug ourselves, but the last thing that we want is to have an administration publishing policy, and then having to amend that policy “before the ink is dry”.
If this country is to punch above its weight again, then this Government must regain full public confidence in its policies. The municipal solid waste tax fiasco shows that some of the Government’s steps still lack the sure-footedness necessary to recovery.