What They Want You to See
What They Don't Want you to See Behind the Green Curtain
For 500 years, Jamaica has been a byword for lush tropical beauty, pristine beaches and the Parrot-Head lifestyle deluxe. Dozens of nonstop flights from North America and Europe land daily to whisk away carefree tourists to fabulous resorts carefully cut off from the everyday life of Jamaica. Therein lies the problem.
The Jamaica fantasy rarely references the elimination of the Taino and Arawak people. Visitors are not encouraged to see the descendants of enslaved Africans living in rural poverty or urban despair.
Yet since the 1957, there has existed a basic reform in law that permits and indeed mandates land value taxation. In its current form, Jamaica uses Land Value Tax to fund local government. Effective tax rates are relatively low, and compliance is casual. Thankfully, the age of the computer is enabling Jamaica and its citizens to see what land is really worth, and to ensure that what is owed is paid; with an increasingly sophisticated methodology to implement progressive rates of taxation on the value of land.
All well and good. Yet those same all-inclusive resorts that cosset visitors are fighting back – hard – against new valuations and rates. It’s actually not hard to sympathize with the hoteliers, considering the myriad and Byzantine Jamaican tax system.
But consider that this tax system with its bewildering rates and regressivity affects the staff in those resorts, the small business person in Kingston, or the smallholder who lives far away from the tourist economy.
No wonder that one of the most valuable exports from Jamaica is still its people. Frustrated, well-educated, and hardworking, the Jamaican diaspora has enriched many nation from US to the UK.
Now is the time for Jamaica to reform its entire tax system and eliminate bad ended up a system of revenue from the annual economic rent of land. Turn Jamaica into a Singapore for the Americas.