The expression ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ is believed to have originated from the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates.
In his work Amorphisms, he wrote: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.”
While Hippocrates meant well, the desperate measures instituted by our economic physician, Dr Goodall Gondwe, will finish us all. Under his watch, it is a gross understatement to say that the economy is in bad shape.
The economy has collapsed and there is no hope in sight, thanks to leaders we elected but are now accountable only to themselves.
Blue Orators, in the run-up to May 2014, Peter Mutharika was all over the place haranguing us with his vision under the mantra “the pursuit of happiness for all”.
Two years on, we know whose happiness he meant.
For those of us suffering economic hardship, unemployment, bad governance, unmitigated looting, blackouts, dry taps and wastage of public resources when service provision is zero, the pursuit of sadness is the order of the day.
Blue Orators, at a time when the majority of us have stretched our incomes to breaking point; in this hard time when experts in managing personal finances are now shamelessly weeping and wailing that they are failing to make ends meet; and at a time when bosses previously unknown to chiyimilire restauranteurs have become regulars at Chiyimilire Lunch Stands, it has pleased President Mutharika to approve homicidal amendments to the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, whose effect is introducing VAT (16.5 percent) on basic commodities such as bread, tap water, milk and laundry soap.
Shamelessly defending this blue murder is Minister of Finance, Gondwe, and some dubious economists arguing that this will expand the tax base and restore the integrity of the tax system by removing distortions that favour some products against others blah blah blah!
Good old Gondwe’s statement is not only nonsensical and insensitive but is an outright lie as his measures and direction are failing to address several pertinent issues.
The bottom line is: the introduction of the murderous VAT regime will not change anything for us, the pursuers of sadness, with respect to availability of social services.
Blue Orators, in case arrogance and sound economics are like water and oil which never mix, I want to set the record clear.
Much as it is true that our tax base is narrow and needs widening, the Finance Minister does not explain why this is the case and how 16.5 percent on Wadawada soap will do the trick.
With dwindling agricultural (read tobacco) fortunes, with companies downsizing and/or closing down due to the harsh economic environment created by partisan-politics-driven consumption economics of Farm Input Subsidy Programme and Malata-Cement subsidies contributing to thousands of us being laid off or unable to secure employment, how would the tax base grow?
Look, while salaried Malawians and the apolitical businesspersons pay taxes, politically connected mafias and their political lords go scot-free.
It is, therefore, selfishness of the highest order that while the President and his henchmen skip t axes b u t get free medical evacuation to South Africa or the USA when they get sick, they have the nerve to shove punitive taxes onto us.
When one criticises the government’s indefensible policies, the trend is that those enjoying the skewed policies quickly rise and argue that do not criticise without offering alternatives.
Just in case such souls are waiting to throw this overused card, I do have suggestions galore.
Other than punishing villagers and the poorest of the poor, for whom Wadawada soap is the only choice not only for laundry but for bathing, dental care and even in lieu of petroleum jelly, why do we not widen the tax base upwards by first removing the tax-free status of the President?
Why should we do that, you ask?
Check this: what is the point in taxing Wadawada when the President and Members of Parliament are allowed to import and even abuse fuel-guzzling SUVs duty-free?
Are we living in George O’well’s animal farm where some animals are more equal?
Before you start thinking I have a thing against politicians, hear the next one.
Instead of taxing tap water, which by the way, civilised governments are obliged to provide; why do we not widen the tax base by taxing our many affluent Men and Women of Gold?
Need a verse? Go read your Bibles on Jesus exhortation to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. If you read even further, you will actually find that Jesus once sent his apostles fishing so as to pay tax!
Blue Orators, if this horrific amendment was an isolated case, I would not have bothered.
But those of you with good memories will recall that not so long ago, Gondwe introduced tax on exercise books while reducing the education budget to fund a state-of-the-art banqueting hall at Kamuzu Palace.
Going back to the 2009- 12 truncated term, the same Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) tried to tax offals.
If these punitive taxes, or rather the use of the funds so collected, were indeed making a difference, I would be the first to commend Goodall.
If this spirited milking of thin cows were for the greater good, i.e., financing provision of basic social services, I, and many of you Blue Orators, would clap hands.
But we all know the sad truth.
These taxes, paid by people sleeping on empty stomachs, are Cashgated by a few. These taxes, paid through the nose, fund Mutharika’s annual pilgrimage to meetings from which the common person benefits nothing.
Given these cold facts, why should we continue tolerating a regime that believes in choking the poor to feed the corrupt?
You know what? If you do your calculations, you will find that the taxes to be collected through VAT on Wadawada soap are far less than the billions stolen – whose investigations and recovery the Anti-Corruption Bureau is just too happy to sweep under the carpet!
Come to think of it, why are we still paying taxes?