That was the response from the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt to claims by Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, made in Parliament last week.
According to Olo, the government is financially desperate which is why they have moved to tax the Head of State and the church ministers.
Olo further questioned the factuality of figures provided by the Ministry of Finance, on the budget for 2017/2018 where the surplus is in millions, yet the government intends to tax the Church Ministers.
“That is how desperate they are, but I didn’t know it was this bad,” said Olo.
But Tiavalea kicked Olo’s claims to touch.
“That is wrong,” he responded.
“If the Ministry of Revenue did not reach our annual goals in terms of revenue collections, the government would be desperate for money. But that is not the case.”
He pointed to Members of Parliament who relayed the needs and wants of their respective districts. This is why the government needs taxes.
“Twenty-eight MP’s addressed Parliament about the needs and wants of their Districts.
“Twenty of them asked for financial assistance for the projects in their districts.
“If these lawmakers do not ask the government for money to fund their projects, why would the government propose for these additional revenue measures?
“Every living person has needs and wants. This is the one thing in life that does not reduce, rather it increases.”
Tialavea said that some of the lawmakers already have access to roads yet they still request for more of the same projects.
He also made it clear the move to tax the Church Ministers was his decision.
“The government did not ask me to tax the Church Ministers,” he said.
“This was my decision and my decision alone.
“At the end of the day it’s the lawmakers, they are the ones who will have the final say. They will vote yes and no to the proposed bill once it comes before the Parliament for approval.”
The Minister made it clear that he did his job as a tax collector.
“Our work is done ... if the lawmakers say no, that’s their choice.”
He noted that “it’s meaningless for lawmakers to voice their opposition about the taxing of Church Ministers, and then vote yes for the bill.
“That’s because they know the revenues are needed,” he said. “So all these (objections) are just politics.”
Tialavea also pointed to irony in politics. He said Members of Parliament always request for developments and yet when the government comes up with policies to facilitate such developments, they complain.
“So where can the government get money to fund these projects?” he asked.
“You want better roads, good quality water, if you’re sick you want to seek off island medical treatment, yet when proposals to gain funds are submitted you complain.”
Tialavea again strongly opposed Olo’s claim about the government being desperate.
“The government is not desperate, it’s the districts that are desperate.”
The Minister said if there were other means to get more money for the development of the districts; the option of taxing pastors would never be considered.
He added that paying taxes is a cycle.
“The people give their faifeau a peleti, then a certain percentage is paid to the government. Then in turn, these same funds are given to the development of projects in the districts. So it’s a cycle.”