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THE HOYOS FILE: The menacing mood of passive resistance

Pat Hoyos

THE HOYOS FILE: The menacing mood of passive resistance

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By conceding a little ground in the Battle of Solid Waste, the Dolittle administration may not want to admit it has already lost the war. But it has.
With almost the entire country in open ­– but thankfully only verbal – revolt, the administration finally made a few concessions.
But they were grudgingly given, and in handing them out like golden passes for a desperate few – pensioners and owners of agricultural land, for example – and postponing the deadline to December, the administration hoped the menacing mood of the populace would soften.
Perhaps it dared hope that the more admirable qualities of the most arrogant and least compassionate of all administrations since Independence would be given the chance to show themselves. It may be a long wait.
As cries for the abolition of the hated tax mounted and top officials found that digging in was not working, the suffocating Dolittle administration – in a desperate lunge for air – suddenly morphed into the Do-something administration, adding a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.
But by its sheer resistance to all advice in not amending the legislation long ago, the administration succeeded in turning the very thing it had stirred up against its opponents in the last election – that is, classic Barbadian passive aggression – on itself.
In honour of the FIFA World Cup, we may say it scored an own goal.
Its inability to respond until last Thursday to the growing chorus of noes and genuine cries of hardship did more in two weeks to turn the tide against it than any of its own flip-flopping of late on other issues.
Perhaps it was the cumulative effect of all those cost of living increases that lit the flame of resistance in the Barbadian psyche, but the hound of passive aggression finally turned on its master and began to defend the Opposition from counter-attack.
Have you noticed that the Dolittle team has been unable to inflict any political damage on those whom they usually lambast with almost no response from the vast majority of the public? When you inflict the wound on yourself through pure hubris, it is harder to blame others.
Whether landowners go ahead and pay the tax in December is one thing. Whether the Government can now impose any new taxes or increase existing ones further is quite another.
So I find myself eagerly awaiting this year’s budget speech, which I am expecting sometime between now and the end of August, based on the pattern of the last two years, to see what the minister of finance does about the fiscal policy debacle into which he has brought the country.
Since the Duke of York marched them up a hill and down again two decades ago, the citizenry has had little interest in taking it to the streets. But when the cold-eyed, seething growl of passive resistance is turned back onto those who delighted in exposing others to it for their own political gain, well, that is a whole new experience.
If the Dolittle entourage would just look at Table 4 on Page 7 of the Central Bank’s latest Press release, the evidence of their economic policy failure, sketched there in a few simple numbers, could encourage them to chart a new course for the country.
The table, a summary of Government operations, shows that, since the high point year of 2011/12 – the first full year of value added tax (VAT) at 17.5 per cent and other increases in rates and fees – every major direct and indirect tax has gone downhill.
In the direct column: personal, corporate and property; as for the indirect: VAT, excise taxes and import duties.
As this was occurring, an increasingly desperate administration started to increase the rates on some of them, and when that didn’t do the trick, we got the Consolidation Tax and the Municipal Solid Waste Tax.
And, if you think I can’t give the Government credit, Page 7 also shows that, apart from the massive surges in interest payments due to more borrowing, the Government’s expenses did not just go wildly out of control, but they didn’t come down either, due to the slow implementation of its retrenchment programme, and still non-existent rationalisation of state-owned enterprises.
Page 7 shows that there is a limit to how much taxation you can take out of the people, and that the Dolittle administration has long since surpassed it.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, Admiral Yamamoto, the man who commanded the attack, reportedly said: “I’m afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled it with terrible resolve.”

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