And so the government is pushing for a massive review of the cost of services it provides to members of the public. This it seems was the biggest talking point during Parliament’s one-day session this week where the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, among other things tabled the Fees and Charges Bill 2016.
From what we’ve seen so far, if the bill is approved, more than forty government agencies will have their fees and charges reviewed with the real possibility of increasing them. These include school fees; charges for the importation of goods, electricity fees, immigration, national health services and a whole lot more.
Of course the government – as they would – will always have a perfectly logical explanation for this. Cue, the Minister of Finance, Sili, who is adamant that the bill is to make sure there is consistency in fees being charged by all government bodies.
“These are the fees the department of government charges for the services they provide. For example, if I want a new birth certificate, I have to pay for it. The same goes for a new passport, I have to pay the cost,” Sili said.
“So those are the services we are looking at and also several legislations that have been there for years and need to modernise to make sure government does receive cost recovery on money spent on those services delivered to our people to make sure its affordable and rational.”
Sili said one of the objectives is to look at current charges and determine whether there is a need to increase or change the basis to assess those charges.
Here’s the thing. Anytime the government talks about reviewing charges, the fear is always that they will eventually end up increasing those charges.
And that could well happen in this case.
In this column, we’ve been saying for some time now that the government is in deep trouble financially and it has no other choice but to let members of the public shoulder the burden. Minister Sili has been very careful with his choice of words, avoiding the impression that taxes will increase – including that menacing tax called the V.A.G.S.T.
But don’t hold your breath when it comes to the government not increasing the V.A.G.S.T.
In fact, according to the Minister, a review is already underway and that’s because the government is merely following through on a “promise” they made after the election.
“We did say we will be reviewing our taxes and currently we are in the process of reviewing Customs duty, our excise taxes, income taxes and corporate taxes and that will also include a review of our V.A.G.S.T rate,” he said.
“Its important that we review all of that.
“Whether we increase or not, I think we need to do a lot more work and consultation with the public to make sure that whatever we come up with at the end, the recommendation will be in line with our government thinking that we generate additional domestic resources to pay for our own budget and not have to depend on developing partners and not have to borrow.”
He added: “That is the whole objective. We need to balance a review of the taxes with our review of the non-tax charges which is what we’re talking about this morning.”
Well that’s wonderful. Isn’t it fantastic to have a government that follows up on its promises? But why does it only deliver on promises that end up hurting people more?
You see, whatever spin they put on it, these reviews will only end up costing you and me, the silent submissive taxpayers, more.
This is no secret. Looking at the state of the economy today, the government needs to generate extra cash to shore up so many holes it created.
When it comes to foreign debt, they have hit the red. The next option is to increase all these fees so that everyone pays. This will have an enormous impact on everyone in this country.
That is the sad reality about these so-called reviews and what have you. It is the government basically looking to legitimise more increases we simply cannot afford given today’s cost of living and poor state on domestic incomes.
What we want to say is that if the government is so swift to follow up on its promise to review taxes and charges, what about their obligation to deal with corruption, collusion and abuse in the public sector that has contributed greatly to the suffering of our people today. Does it not feel duty bound to review those too?
Has anyone sat down to review the ridiculous cost of the abuse of public resources and monies we have seen over the years?
Has anyone in the government thought about recovering those millions wasted through corrupt practices, collusion and mismanagement identified in numerous Chief Auditor reports?
Contrary to the official government spin about the review of the fees and charges, there is one thing we can guarantee. These fees and charges will only end up increasing, which will be yet another massive blow to the poor people who are already struggling.
But then that’s what we think anyway?
What about you? Write and share your thoughts with us.
Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!