Governments throughout the world need effective consultation to be publicly accountable.

When a new idea or concept is tabled, it is fair to say that many people—Ni Vanuatu included—do not understand tax, in particular the rural poor who are struggling to put food on the table.

It is essential that the government needs to create an environment to enable a more thorough consultation process which will create long term benefits to Vanuatu, in particular as it will give an opportunity to the people of Vanuatu to own the plan!!

A few matters of national interest raised themselves quite convincingly a week ago Tuesday at the National Conference Centre.

First was that the Government through the Revenue Review Committee has absolutely ZERO intention of allowing anyone to ask them any questions pertaining to the ATO’s proposed new tax initiative.

This was highlighted by the way the committee held the floor for some two and a half hours of a dedicated three hours allowing only seven questions to come from the floor.

Second is how under-prepared and lacking in comprehension the revenue review committee actually are of what they are actually trying to sell the public?

From listening and hearing the answers proposed, sadly not much. If they actually stopped and listened to themselves I am sure they would be horrified just like the rest of Vanuatu is being horrified with this current ideology.

Third—and I believe this is the most important part—is the slow and accidental leaking of just how it will affect the average grass roots Ni Vanuatu.

They have now let us in on their secret: Personal tax, and everyone—and I mean everyone—having to register for the purpose of tax.

That means if you don’t have a job that is working directly for a company or a business of some sort and not registered for VNPF then they will make you register with the Tax office and you will have to all file a yearly tax return.

If you earn a certain amount then you will have to pay Tax to the government. Now, in practice that simply won’t work as tax collection in the past is proving quite ineffective and biased in whom to collect from so we don’t expect much change in that area.

Why would the mammas at the markets be required to do this? Taxis and buses and public transport drivers, fishermen and subsistence farmers and how will they measure the bartering as it is an accepted practice in particular in the Banks.

The whole thing is an ATO-led farce. It is of absolutely no use to Vanuatu and the people of Vanuatu.

There will be no new services to the people, no new infrastructure and I seriously doubt any real debt reduction. Why wont they listen to what people are saying?

Why not explore what options there are? In my column an alternate has been proposed that will generate more revenue, be easier to establish and maintain, will not frighten people, nor cause inflation and will allow for a continuation of an existing system that needs an overhaul in its collection policies and will create a few more jobs to ensure better service delivery to the people for the people.

A proposed alternative is an increase in VAT to 15%, inclusive of a 2% turnover tax on gross turnover at the end of each VAT period.

1% is direct to Government Revenue and the other 1% is for Tourism Development to grow our tourism industry with promotions and advertising. This to be all collected in the existing VAT return each elected tax period. The remaining 13% is standard deductable VAT

A 2% payroll tax [employer tax] and a 2% income tax [employee tax] to be collected through the VNPF [legislation will be required to achieve both]. A tax on all monies coming into the country and being moved off shore collected by the banks of 0.005% . All these revenue streams will grow with the population as too will the tax base grow, as the economy grows so does government revenue.

The other important thing that needs to be done is for the government to get as far away from Pacer plus as it possible can, this is a plight on our society and will be a cancer to our economy.

These are simple taxes and easy to implement as we already have them and they have worked quite well to date, sure they need tweaking to suit our needs but we most certainly don’t need wholesale changes including registering everyone for the purpose of collecting revenue. Just manage the existing system and make it work.

Sadly what we have In Vanuatu at the moment is called Ineffective consultations which are considered by many to be cosmetic consultations that are being done due to an obligation or a show to the people however it is not a true participatory process for the people of Vanuatu in the decision making of one of the most impacting and potential economically and socially dysfunctional changes to our Revenue collection ever seen.

Consultation is by the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition is a meeting to discuss something or get advice.

According to the Free Dictionary public consultation, is a “regulatory process by which the public’s input on matters affecting them is sought.

Its main goals are in improving the efficiency, transparency and public involvement in large-scale projects or laws and policies.

It usually involves notification (to publicise the matter to be consulted on), consultation (a two-way flow of information and opinion exchange) as well as participation (involving interest groups in the drafting of policy or legislation).”

This inadequacy in the current consultation process is both highlighted and exacerbated with the comments made recently by the PRO, who tried to censure both myself and Opposition Leader, Ishmael Kalsakau regarding comments that were made and issues that have been raised.

Trying to shut the Opposition Leader down who has a duty to both his constituents and that of the Opposition Bloc to promote awareness and point out any wrong that he and his Bloc believe are being incurred by the government is his job and his mandate.

What right has the PRO to demand they stand down on the grounds the people did not mandate him/them to represent them on the current tax issue. How could they, no one was to know about the proposed new tax as in no one knew!!

As far as I know there is not one budding Nostradamus in our communities. The current debate needs to be actively listen to both sides and work out a solution to the current debt problem the country is facing.

From the dialogue I have had with many people from many walks of life a new or increased tax is inevitable. What is not wanted is, as a result of naivety and ignorance being saddled with a tax system that simply creates more poverty, divides the community and increase the cost of living and stops any further economic growth.

That is what the current Tax plan will do. What we have been proposing for them to consider will earn up to 3 times more in revenue, is easy to implement, won’t increase the cost of living, be absorbed by the community and as our country grows and our economy grows so will our revenue base.

None of us are perfect nor are we going to get it right first time but if we work together then we can arrive at a solution that really works for us here in Vanuatu.

So instead of getting angry with people and swearing at people who have an opinion and want to be heard for the betterment of Vanuatu lets respect each other and our input, value what is being put down, work with us all and make it a better place on what we know is right not what we have been told by outside influences to be so.

You don’t have to believe me, go to the Revenue Review Website and read for yourself the propaganda that is being laid down. If you think that it will raise the money they allege and they can deliver on what is promised then let us all know so we can get behind it. You all have a say, let yourself be heard.

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