Make I Feeeel Somtin, Abeg!
Soooooo… What had happened waaaassss…
We went into a grocery shop, having parked haphazardly on the side of the sidewalk.
There were no clearly marked spaces and there were no clear signs.
So we did what everyone else had done, hopped the curb a little, with the boot sort of sticking in the street. No Biggie.
But when we rolled outside, two police officers were waiting. They were choooosin’. And we were the targets. Here is the conversation that ensued:
The thing is, it is very possible that we should have been given a ticket or some type of citation. I am not denying culpability, assuming expectations had been made clear. But they were not. Bigger than that, here were two able bodied officers waiting and lurking. Instead of putting a boot on the tire, or dispensing whatever form of justice, they were enlisted to dispense. They were waiting for some chop money. A little ‘colla’ to end the days rounds. I love these moments. Because this is actually bigger than them asking for bribe money. This could have ALL been avoided if city codes for building shops were enacted, parking spaces were built, signs were put up and all manner of urban planning had been effectively carried out. In the absence of these, we were met by rogue police officers waiting for us to pay for the laws we had unknowingly broken.
This is not a blog post about bribery.
Bribery is a conspiracy by colonial masters to make us hate each other and distrust our fellow man word that places a negative value judgment on a public practice that is perfectly legal and perfectly necessary.
This is not a blog post about corruption.
This is a post about how inefficient government practices create a heavy tax burden on the electorate. Having been incorrectly diagnosed as bribery and corruption, this tax burden has also been ineffectively combatted through external means (yup, lets invite the World Bank to create another catastrophic mess— or have we forgiven them for SAP so soon?)
This is a blog post about taxation without adequate representation.
No I am not crazy.
Just… follow me right quick.
We pay this tax when we go to DVLA and we get taken around every block on the premises before they tell us that they can not accept our papers because your middle name is not written on your employment letter in the way it is written on your license… -_- #stillbitter
We pay this tax when we buy an expedited passport application form for 100GHC and then find out to actually get it done within the 3 days, we must pay an additional 250GHC to some guy to ‘create’ a Ghanaian birth certificate for you, because thaaaats not sus at all. O.o
We pay this tax when we want to open a business and ensure that we receive all of our paperwork in a timely and effective manner in order to proceed further with our partners. Yet we find ourselves ‘greasing’ hands as our application is moved from one office to another . So much so thats its budgeted for before even beginning the process.
I have heard this tax (incorrectly) labeled ‘bribes’ or ‘corruption’ or other woeful misnomers. The correct name of this fee is Service- based Hidden Income Tax or S.H.I.T. (c) as I like to call it.
Yes, you heard me right. Instead of looking at bribes as corruption, we should look at it as a tax we must pay for an inefficient government. A tax that, unfortunately, benefits individuals as opposed to a collective good. But a tax no less as it is levied on just about every citizen as a way of fundraising for public officials to ensure service delivery. Because the government willingly doles 60% of its budget to paying public servants without holding them accountable for performance, work outcomes, VFM or other important metrics of service delivery, we are forced to account for this ourselves. The only way to ensure something gets done is… well… if you pay yo’ S.H.I.T.
It’s not like moooost Ghanaians can even complain really. The average Ghanaian only pays VAT on imported goods. Since our balance of trade is largely tilted towards heavy importation, most pay a menial tax in some way as long as they do things like… drink coke or buy skin whitening lightening creams from Dubai. Le Sigh. ahemBLACKBEAUTYREVOLUTIONIGNITEahem. People living in remote places don’t even really pay that. Between alata saminaa, fresh food and locally sourced water, they completely evade the tax system and are still the greatest beneficiaries of public services (though I won’t stand here and pretend public services are the greatest benefits in the world— see public schools, smh).
The burden of tax lies heavily on a growing middle class who bears the brunt of most of the economic challenges of Ghanaian citizenship. Most Ghanaians find that the government takes almost a quarter of their check for services that they would rather pay for because of the abysmal quality of the subsidized versions. Anyone with a salaried job and kids, is probably sending their kids to private schools and benefitting from private health insurance. Can you blame ‘em?
In addition to people not having to pay taxes, people are also generally averse to paying taxes largely because they do not trust the government to do what it says it will do with citizen funds. Case and point— 60% of the budget going to government salaries (I am CLEARLY in the wrong line of work!)]. Or NHIS one day— the next day capitation— the next day nothing. I mean, I wouldn’t be quick to hand over funds either if there was so much uncertainty about what happens to the money. But I am also slightly Nordic about taxes… so I pay them on principle. That is its own special issue.
But this is one of those GOTCHYA moments. Because NOOOOBODY can avoid S.H.I.T. I mean, inevitably you’ll step in it and it gets stuck in your shoes and your just walking around in it… its that sneaky. I mean, if you have EVER needed ANYTHING from the government, you have had to give up some S.H.I.T.— now ain’t that some bull?!
I know without a doubt that if I polled most Ghanaians, they would MUCH rather pay an overt tax to a government that held its servants accountable for efficient service delivery than to pay these individual, non-common-good taxes to police officers and DVLA officials. Am I right, or am I right? So how do we get there? And what is our responsibility as citizens in addressing this matter. My next blog post will discuss one very important way I think the people should fight this S.H.I.T. And I will be needing readers to offer their expertise to ensure it can happen…
Until then, arise and sing…”We’re not gonna take S.H.I.T….. NO, we ain’t gonna take S.H.I.T… We aint gonna take S.H.I.T ANYMOOOOOORE!”