Gordon Swaby

The Jamaican Government’s Withdrawal Tax is anti-business, does not protect the poor and weakens the middle class

I commend Peter Phillips on the work that he has done in the Finance Ministry thus far. Our debt to GDP ratio is down, interest rates are not as high as they used to be and inflation is down, but the recent move by the Jamaican government to implement a levy on bank withdrawals is a bad move. It is an anti-business and retrograde move.

Let me explain.

A little bit over a year ago I published on this blog a debit card charge comparison chart for Jamaican banks. You can find that blog post here.  The chart has not been updated , but I am certain that bank charges have been adjusted (upwards) since.

To summarise the chart, two of our largest banks, National Commercial Bank ( NCB) and Scotiabank had some of the highest charges, Scotiabank charging $66 JM for each multilink withdrawal while NCB charged $60.34 per withdrawal from a multilink ATM.

In January 2014, the Jamaican government launched an investigation into the fees that commercial banks and credit unions charged, I believe that consensus was that bank fees were too high. See a news release on the issue here .

You can find the ministry paper for the withdrawal levy here.

Side note: Why are we getting scanned copies of ministry papers in 2014? Why can’t we get the original document in PDF format?

Information on the Levy is #3 in the paper. For convenience, see it below:

a) As part of Revenue Measures FY 2014/2015, the House is being asked to approve the introduction  of a levy on withdrawals from deposit-taking institutions  and encashments from securities dealers.

b)  This levy will be chargeable  on all withdrawals from deposit taking institutions by means of: –

i. Electronic banking (e-banking)
ii. Point of Sales (POS)
iii. Cheques
iv) Withdrawals – ABM/ATM/ETM or over the counter and;
v  Internet transfers (with the exception of transfers between accounts of the same person in the same financial institution)

If you’re withdrawing less than a million JMD from the bank the government will take 0.1% of it.
Between a million and 5 million the government will take 0.09% of it.
Greater than 5 million, but less than 20 million and the government will take 0.075%
Greater than 20 million dollars and the government will take 0.05%

So, if you go to the ATM and you withdraw $1,000 or you pay it at your favorite restaurant  the government will take $1.
If you buy $5,000 worth of gas for your motor vehicle and you use your card the government will take $5. Not a big deal, in fact, it’s negligible. Surely you can give your government $1 on every 1,000 up to $999,999.

With close to 1 million Jamaicans unbanked this move  still (supposedly) protects the most poor and vulnerable.  Great, but not exactly.

The government, understanding how tough things are for their people even moved the personal income tax threshold from $507, 312.00 to $557, 232.00 causing  a whopping 12, 823 persons to fall outside the tax base.

On an individual level the levy is in fact negligible, but that that’s not where the real issue is. Inevitably the banks will pass this charge on to their customers via an increase in bank charges, this is fair, but bear in mind, the consensus was that bank fees were already high. Not only will the bank charge you for the actual tax, they’ll charge the customer for the administration involved in paying the government the tax monthly, implementation of the levy etc, so expect increased fees from the banks soon if the levy is not revised or removed.

The second and larger issue. Many llegitimate medium sized and large businesses pass millions of dollars through their respective banks daily, i.e millions of dollars worth of deposits AND withdrawals. Legit businesses that both the poor and middle class utilise. e.g restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets etc.

Here’s a scenario:

John Brown owns a business that deals with a lot of cash (e.g money gram locations, bakeries, supermarkets etc). On a daily basis John deposits 6 million dollars into the bank. John needs 5 million $ to cover his bills daily.  So, John would need to withdraw that 5 mil. John (or that transaction) would therefore fall in the 0.09% bracket.

$5,000,000 * 0.09/100 = $4,500. John is paying $4,500 in taxes DAILY. Not a big deal, right? But wait, John operates 300 days out of the year. So, 300 * $4,500 = $1,350,000 in taxes.

John loves his country, but he’s also operating a business and will have no choice but to pass on these charges to his customers, of course prior to this John was struggling with the already high bank charges. This is just one example, but there are many others.  There are other consequences, but I think these are the ones that will affect us the most in the short and medium term. The poor and middle class will suffer.

Of all the revenue measures, the government will make the most from the Withdrawal tax ($2.250 billion), but I would encourage them to reconsider and explore more equitable and sensible alternatives.

Feedback is of course always welcome.

The Jobsian fallacy 

I’m sad Steve Jobs is gone. I’m sadder still to see the vultures of shallow thinking circling his name. There is a fallacy around great men, a notion we can learn best from their behavior for how we ourselves can achieve. But that’s only true if we study them with an honest eye. When writers are clouded by mythology and hero worship, they do more harm than good, as sloppy thinking is often the mortar used to put men on pedestals.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Dear John – er – Firefox,

Hey…hi. This is really awkward and I don’t know how to begin this letter. So I’m just going to run with what’s coming to mind. We’ve been together for seven years. Would you look at that? Time really flies when you’re having fun, right? In the beginning, you were light and quick – always coming out with something new to surprise me! Seriously, at times I got dizzy because of the speed at which you were getting updated and your new tricked-out doo-dads…But how I loved it.

Y’know, things were going really well until a couple years ago and…you just got kind of sluggish. I didn’t know if you were going through a mid-life crisis thing…but at the time I promised myself I’d stick by you no matter what.

So, I watched you constantly loading up on plug-ins, features, add-ons, new releases – just junk. All that stuff goes straight to your waist! You kept getting slower and slower…and, no matter how often I told you “You really don’t need extra plug-ins, you’re fine”, and no matter how many times I lied and said that add-on didn’t look fat, things kept deteriorating. You just had to keep going until you got…well, for want of a better word, bloated.

I was so brain-washed by you, Fox…I wrote off IE (our split ended acrimoniously, FYI), Netscape had a nervous breakdown due to separation anxiety issues, not to mention Opera and I aren’t even on speaking terms any more…I gave up SO much for you and I feel really short-changed. All I have to show for our years together is residual frustration at Mozilla Crash Reporting screens, random freezing and your tendency to attempt to hold the CPU hostage until you got your way.

Petulant, Fox. Real petulant.

Remember recently I told you a ‘new’ old friend, Chrome, stopped by to say hi? Well, the thing is…we’re an item. It’s not you, Fox…it’s – well, I’m lying – you. I can’t see our relationship going any further when you continuously threaten my workflow, hang-up in the middle of my website development work and what-have-you. Chrome is a great guy – and at first I thought he was kind of flashy and crazy, but he reminds me so much of you in the good old days Fox.

I hope you’ll understand, and that we can be friends. I’ll occasionally stop by and check in on you, and Firebug too; Chrome only has Firebug Lite and, while it’s okay, it’s not the full thing.

So long Fox…I’ll miss you. Maybe one day we can reconcile but until you sort out your relationships with plug-ins and add-ons, I just don’t see how it’s going to work out.

About the Author

NickMack is a graphic and web designer who enjoys long walks on the beach and poking around PHP – while wearing PHP-safety-goggles, of course. As one of the primaries of the JamaicanBlogger project, she enjoys blogging and interacting with other members of the Jamaican Blogosphere. You can follow her on Twitter here and swing by her blog here.

Because i couldn’t say this in 140 Characters or less…Vivre Twitter.

I’ve been on twitter for a while, circa 2007, a year or so after its inception.  I was what you’d call “an early-ish adapter” and in my time on the hip “micro-blogging site” ( i remember when that term was coined) I’ve seen trend after trend; Some I’m indifferent to, others are annoying and others are extremely annoying.

I mean, It’s just a few things that grind my gears, here goes:

Cryptic Tweets: People who only tweet strange, enigmatic thoughts that no one ever gets. Do you think you’re cool?

IM Conversations: Yes, It’s your twitter account, you do with it what you want, but there are unwritten rules and something called “netiquette”.  Twitter was never meant to be used as  a chat-room ( ipso facto, the 140 character limit).  Some people constantly @ each other talking about things no one can relate to, because it was never meant for twitter. Blackberry Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Chat and a myriad of others are there if you need to have prolonged conversations with a friend, UTILIZE them because nobody cares about your extremely mundane conversations.  Then you wonder why you have 50 followers; that last bit is a precursor to annoyance #3.

That annoying, “Please follow me” phrase: Please, don’t beg someone to follow you on Twitter, It’s really pathetic.  If you are genuinely interesting or actually have some substantial tweets then people will follow you, albeit  maybe not that person you’d want to follow you, but that’s fine; different strokes for different folks, but people will follow you.

Retweeting/replying done wrong: I remember when “retweeting” made its debut on Twitter.  The users created it, until twitter decided to formalize it. I remember how people originally used it.  People retweeted your tweet for many reasons, maybe because they liked it, because it was a tweet that was particularly helpful etc.  In recent time many Jamaicans have flocked to twitter and as simple as it is, not many people know how to use the re-tweet/reply function.  They are distinctly different.  A brief tutorial:

The tweet above is how i see most people reply to to tweets. They “retweet” the original tweeter’s tweet and put their response in front. Occasionally this is fine, especially when you want to save people from clicking the “in reply to” option, but most people, i find don’t know any better, so they always do it thinking it’s the only way to respond to a tweet, but it’s not.

Now this is the right way to respond to someone’s tweet. It’s really easy. Just find the tweet you’re referring to on whatever client you’re using whether it be Tweetdeck, Seesmic, or even Twitter web use the reply function and twitter will automatically reference the tweet automagically.  When the person who you replied to receives your response they’ll know what tweet you’re referring to because they’ll see the “in reply to username” as highlighted above which avoids the “what are you talking about” tweet.  It’s a really easy concept to grasp, So if @waynjonesjnr is to click ” in reply to Waynejonesjnr he’ll promptly see that i was referring to his tweet about cigarette smoking women.

People who do blast #FF’s– On twitter it’s tradition to recommend tweeters  that you like for other people to follow. This is called “Follow Friday, or #FF for short. Follow Fridays are done by putting the #FF hashtag in front of the tweets followed by the people you want other people to follow. e.g: #FF @nigel_thomas @ryanmattis, @waynejonesjnr, @rtrowe, @iamsbee (btw, these are all cool people, you should follow them), but i find this way of “mass #FF’ing”  annoying and ineffective, instead i find it a lot more substantial to write a blurb about the person(s) you want other people to follow instead. e.g: #FF @ryanmattis Fellow techie, blogger and full-time pessimist. You’ll find that people appreciate this method as opposed to the “blast method” that i mentioned above, they’re also more likely to get followed; Quality over quantity i say.

Finally, Tweeting in CAPS: Anybody who’s an internet fanatic or even someone who occasionally uses the internet knows that when you type in caps it signifies that you’re screaming/shouting or showing your disgust for something. Typing/tweeting: “I’M SO LOVING MY BREAKFAST RIGHT NOW”  in caps  is wrong, tweeting using caps indefinitely is annoying and not to mention noobish, come on, get with it. Read more about Online etiquette here

Unfortunately many people i follow on twitter are guilty of my peeves; hoping they’ll all read this and apply it to their day-to-day tweeting so that me and everyone else can have a more pleasant twitter experience. *crosses fingers*

4 Days and Counting…Blackberryless

I know i was an addict, i really did, but it’s worse than i thought. I’ve been relatinblackberry-curveg this story to quite a few people so i thought it best to just do a post on it. I’ve been blackberry less… for 4 days, and I’m dying;slowly but surely, i have withdrawals, loose bowels, pissy mood and just plain indifferent to everything but the loss of my bb ( r.i.p you sexy thing you), my life feels like a mess.So the story:  Late afternoon, decided to charge my “BB” on my mother’s desktop at work because it was running low on juice, ;put it on the desk, it fell, while plugged in, ripped the charger/usb port out.. but just a bit.

That was the least of my worries…Thought the problem was trivial( which it was at the time) so i carried it to a supposed phone repair shop, thinking they had it under control only to have them screw up my damn phone, he turned a small problem into a big one, i swear parts were flying all over the place and all i could hear him mutter was “Mi nuh like work pan blackberries innuh, they are so tender”, i swore i shit my pants, but fortunately i did not. Me being the idiot thought he had it under control only to realize he didn’t, after about an hour or so of “working” on it he handed it back to me telling me it was useless and could not be repaired…i walked out dissapointed , but  determined to make it work again. So i went to a nearby town, to another repair shop hoping i could resolve the problem there, this time this repair man was confident in his ability to fix it and i thought he could too saying he ‘fixed these all the time”, i believed him ( i still do), but what he had to tell me after examining my phone was certainly not good news…the dude who was working on it before him totally screwed the damn thing up.

It was late and he promised he’d look into it for me on Tuesday, today’s Monday, i’ll here what becomes of it tomorrow, i’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, being the optimist i’m not used to being *sighs*

I hate google’s new Favicon, Take 2

My first rant for 2009, why did it have to be about you Google? With your snappy ” Don’t be evil” slogan; well sorry to burst you’re bubble Mr. Sergery Brin and Larry Page, but you’re one big sack of evil right now with you new Favicon.  To some this may be trivial and geeky, but to me something as simple as a favicon means the world, call me geeky, call me picky, but I’m highly annoyed. I mean seriously, what was wrong with the original favicon?

My first rant about there idiotic first instance sad excuse for a favicon was in June of last year, they’ve come up with an even worst one since that time. There newest one, which also seems to be the final one is even WORSE, i’d feel better if they said this was not the final, but sadly it is, but such is life, i guess i’ll get used to it.  Now my tab bar is all uhm.. weirded out *sighs*googlesnewfavicon

Apparently this one incorporates all of google’s logo color scheme into it. Maybe i should stop complaining, maybe it isn’t that bad, who knows i might get used to it, but for now i hate it.


Read google’s blog post regarding there new favicon here

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