The power struggle between the government and the church over the issue of taxes is an intriguing one to follow.
It certainly adds a new dimension to the political climate of the moment. And while it appears insidious, it is nonetheless a first for Samoa and perhaps a sign of things to come.
You see for years many of us thought the two pillars of Samoan life were working like hand in glove in just about everything. We thought they were inseparable folks.
That was until the government turned around and slapped the church, or specifically Church Ministers by taxing their incomes.
They didn’t stop there of course. They went further and taxed the “envelopes” church Ministers receive from funerals, weddings and the lot. Now they have turned on each other in what has been a most interesting little scuffle to follow.
The latest development emerged this week during a series of seminars being conducted by the Ministry of Revenue to explain how the new law will work, starting on 01 January 2018.
From what we’ve been told, the government appears quite envious of the church and church Ministers.
“The Bill is not new from our perspective; it’s been years since the government has been trying to put it in place,” a government official said.
“The government and the Ministry have noticed that some of the pastors receive more than C.E.O.s and that’s why we think that it will be nice for pastors to contribute.”
Well that’s interesting, isn’t it?
Especially in a nation that has just declared itself a Christian state.
What about scriptures in the Bible which clearly point out that Church Ministers and workers of God are to be looked after by the people whom they are ministering too? Aren’t they specifically instructed not to take anything which is why villagers and church members fork out for them? Housing, clothing, food and everything?
Come to think of it, we live in a country where Church Ministers have always been referred to as representatives of God on earth. As such, is the government now asking God to pay taxes to Samoa as his contribution?
Do they not consider life, natural resources, the air we breathe and all the blessings we get daily as contribution? And how do we put a monetary value to such?
Clearly, members of the clergy are not happy.
And this week, they had a strong message for Prime Minister Tuilaepa delivered by Reverend Siaosi Samuelu, of the Catholic Church at Salua Manono.
“There are countless families in Upolu especially at Aleipata who don’t have access to water and electricity,” he said. “Use those monies to help those families. Use it wisely please but don’t abuse and waste them.”
Well there’s an interesting little revelation.
So the church knows about how the government has been abusing and wasting money? If this is so, why has it waited until now to find its voice? A matter of convenience perhaps?
Of course Rev. Samuelu doesn’t speak for all members of the clergy. But he pretty much sums up the general feeling many of them have openly expressed since this debacle started.
“For your information we only heard this on the radio and newspapers but not from the government,” he said about the seminars.
“Now they’ve come and want to hear from us, personally, it’s a waste of time because the law has already been passed. What more do they want from us now?
Rev. Samuelu said he doesn’t object to the government’s plan but he wants to make it clear that common courteousy would have gone a long way.
We couldn’t agree more. But how many times have we seen this from this government? This is so typical.
Back to Rev. Samuelu he is obviously aware that nothing he says would change the government’s plan. He and many others like him have probably accepted their fate to pay taxes.
But he doesn’t go down without a fight.
“Don’t spend it on road constructions where in the next two years, they dig the road again,” he advised about how tax monies should be spent. “That is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Stop wasting money on useless projects. They should look at solid developments, not another burden to everyone shoulders.”
But here’s a last thought though, if the government hadn’t wasted so much money on “useless projects” and “abuse,” maybe we would never have reached the stage where today they are now looking to tax God too?
What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!