A Bolt is not the same as a Nut

This week¡¯s revelation of Britain¡¯s tax imposition on our star Usain Bolt, if he were to compete in that country, speaks to yet another time that we have come face to face with a modern form of colonial expediency. In the "good ol¡¯ days" Britain carefully controlled the supply routes for the sugar, which was a lucrative product. Jamaica was prohibited from selling directly to the "rebellious Americans", who incidentally had launched a revolution in protest against unwarranted taxation.

So this week Usain Bolt is threatened with taxation of current fees, as well as 10 per cent of worldwide earnings. Let me clarify this issue within a framework. Usain could be expected to pay tax on fees earned in the United Kingdom either by direct unrecoverable taxes or by withholding taxes. Either method would be appropriate depending on the tax treaties between the UK and his place of domicile -- Jamaica. I am presuming that Mr Bolt is a Jamaican citizen.

Forty years ago I probably would have been tempted to ascribe an element of racism to this incident, but happily we have grown beyond that, at least in the sporting industry. I therefore see it as just a money-related issue in a country facing a serious recession, and as members of the "Big Boys Club", from issues largely of their own global mismanagement. Taxing the people is a bureaucratic return to a past which cannot hold legal or moral sway in a global system of rules.

Can it be that the "duppy" is trying to frighten us, the poor little Jamaicans? I have not read about any similar decision involving Americans or Europeans, and I wonder about Rafael Nadal, Venus and Serena Williams, Tyson Gay, Sanya Richards, or any of the "big-ticket" athletes. Say goodbye to Tiger Woods and most USA golfers, and the British Open. I have already heard that exceptions will be made for the Champions League footballers in next year¡¯s engagements in England, and I suspect that cricket may be exempted as well.

Under the Services Agreements, the movement of individuals for the supply of temporary services is a normal treatment. This would include sportspersons, musicians and other artistes, cultural performers, consultants and other professionals. Therefore this arbitrary request needs to be clarified as it affects both British and non-British businesses. The details can be found on the UK government website and clearly do not include worldwide income. In addition, it would not be in keeping with the spirit of the much-vaunted "development focus" of the ACP-EU Partnership (EPA).

Think of Notting Hill carnival without Trinidadian and Jamaican performers, and Wimbledon as an all-British affair. I don¡¯t have to go any further to show that most events would be horrendous failures in both ticket sales and television rights. As the Olympic Games approach in London, I would be very careful to avoid any possible actions which would antagonise the top drawing cards, as that would render the entire Olympic a total flop.

Our younger readers may not recall previous protests. The United States boycotted the Moscow Olympics, in a Cold War protest. Now they are back in bed with Russia, and that is as they say "water under the bridge", but their action did remove some of the competitive enthusiasm from the games. Threatened protests caused the expulsion of the then apartheid regime in South Africa from sports and helped to focus world attention on racism in that country, and sanctions were taken against the "rebel tour", inclusive of star batsman Lawrence Rowe.

The difference today is that star athletes and other sports stars do not come only from the USA, Britain and Russia, so a withdrawal from, or boycott of athletics by Jamaica, T&T, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cuba, and countless other emerging nations could render the UK investments in the Olympics a huge financial disaster. No Usain, Asafa, Veronica or Shelly-Ann would make for a truly uninspiring Games.

Christie under fire

Here at home MP Peter Bunting has joined critics of the contractor general who, by the way, performs under an Act of Parliament that they all helped to draft. The fact that Mr Greg Christie does his job should be comforting to government employees as they are protected from the arbitrary and often illegal directives given by politicians, including ministers. As I have said before, the first step in corporate governance is to hire honest persons and elect honest political leaders. Be Utility anchor that Greg Christie does his job, because if he didn¡¯t the taxpayers of this country would be much more debt.

I consider Peter Bunting to be a friend, an honourable businessman, and a financial person who understands rules. I therefore expect that he abides by the legal requirements of the Bank of Jamaica, the Financial Securities Act, and the IFRS rules in his personal businesses. Peter, refrain from attributing unworthy motives to the contractor general, instead ensure that he conforms to the responsibilities of his important office. Anyone who feels unnerved or threatened by his actions should not be government employees, as they either know of or are hiding transgressions. They are the proverbial animals in the sty who cry out when hit by a stone. The same parliamentarians promise them protection under the proposed "Whistle Blower Act". The family of my late friend, Mrs Sonia Christie, must at last feel somewhat vindicated.

China now has control of the sugar lands in exchange for a paltry sum, as was to be expected. The port will soon follow bauxite and alumina. I have written on these matters and don¡¯t really object, except for the pricing formulae, so I won¡¯t waste anymore time, except to note two matters in this regard. Firstly, selling out to "foreigners" does not fit in the same sentence as "sovereignty". Secondly, our much-admired idols, namely Cuba and Singapore, have not sold out their sugar cane lands or ports respectively. Perhaps their understanding of sovereignty includes the principles of good governance and requires self-reliance, not mendicancy and obfuscation.

So we go back to rules-based systems which are so vital in working out peaceful resolutions to international trade matters. I am reminded of a newspaper headline that attempted to encapsulate a sexual assault on a woman doing her laundry, allegedly perpetrated by a mental patient. The headline read "Nut screws washer and bolts". Britain, beware, this may not be a small problem, but a short-term folly taken "to the world"!


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