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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]
Colombian tax reform. Many have tried it — or at least given helpful suggestions — but few have had much lasting success. The mere utterance of the phrase sends some folk into a paroxysm.
In 2021, planned revenue reforms were a chief reason behind what resulted in months of public unrest. Over a year on and with a new president in place, finding ways to boost Colombia’s coffers is back on the agenda.
To be honest, and for reasons that will become clearer, I haven’t paid too much attention to President Gustavo Petro’s plans in this regard.
From what I do know, the somewhat controversial proposal to tax certain sugary drinks and ultra-processed foods is something that I largely agree with.
Ditto with disposable plastic products. Many Colombians seem incapable of shopping without putting practically every item into a separate plastic bag. Charging them for such a practice might just make them think twice.
That those earning more than ten million pesos (currently just over 2,255 euros) per month — only about two per cent of the population, apparently — will have to pay income tax is also welcome. I’m not, unsurprisingly, currently in that bracket.
Increased fuel taxes will most likely see travel become a little more expensive but I can shoulder that.
‘It’s not that the devil will be in the detail of proposals to come — Colombians tend to be byzantine in terms of details on paper.’
Looking at the other changes mentioned, I can’t see much that will directly affect me adversely — unless I become ridiculously rich in the coming months. This would appear to be the same for ninety-eight per cent of Colombians, the mooted reforms mentioned above excepted. They do certainly love their gaseosas (fizzy drinks) here (for more on that see https://wwcorrigan.blogspot.com/2016/01/waging-sweet-war-for-healths-sake.html and https://blogs.eltiempo.com/wrong-way-corrigan/2014/01/31/colombias-battle-with-the-bulge/).
Of course, the Petro presidency may affect that ninety-eight per cent and me in other ways, not just financially, and for both good and bad. It’s not that the devil will be in the detail of proposals to come — Colombians tend to be byzantine in terms of details on paper. It’s how they’re actually implemented for real. That’ll be the key.
Pay to stay
Whatever the case, despite almost eleven years in the country, I feel somewhat outside the state’s structures. Again, many Colombians — for better or for worse — could say the same but for very different reasons.
In my case, having a temporary visa status as a visitor (V type) is one reason for this “isolation”. Yes, it allows me to engage in independent paid employment here but it doesn’t put me on ‘the road to residency’, as the phrase goes.
It does, though, ensure I make an annual contribution to the state in the region of one million pesos. I won’t have it said that I don’t pay my way here. (Coming from a Nanny State pay-as-you-earn [PAYE] tradition, I find the idea of filing tax returns odd. Apparently, I’m a bit away from the threshold for payment anyway. In any case, pretty much all of my expenditure goes back into the Colombian economy. There are certainly no peso remittances being sent back to Ireland.)
In general, I’m largely indifferent to the country’s politics. A presidential or Bogotá mayor election piques my interest but that’s pretty much the height of it.
I cursorily check Colombian news but I rarely feel enthused to delve deeper into the comings and goings of events here. Most of my engagements with current affairs media these days are from UK sources.
So, outside of the perennial visa headache and bank dealings, my relationship with “official” Colombia is along the lines of, ‘If you don’t mingle much in my life, I won’t mingle much in yours.’
Akin, it could be said, to the parting words Don Corleone gave to the Turkish drug dealer, Sollozzo, in The Godfather movie: ‘Good luck to you, especially as your interests don’t conflict with mine.’ A risky analogy that, perhaps.
But let’s try not to over-complicate things whatever might happen in the future.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.