Guyana government Taxes On Overseas Guyanese
Performing Artists a Shameful Practice

from Caribbean Daylight
September 30, 1996
by Gora Singh

The Guyana Goverment's imposition of taxes on visiting overseas Guyanese who travel to perform in that country is a shameful indictment of the monetary greed of the PPP/Civic regime. Guyanese performers, promoters and show organizers domiciled abroad, constantly retum to Guyana, providing an infusion of performing arts standards. "Foreign Guyanese" artists give some sense of high standards of artistic excellence to the people of Guyana, a country which sadly lacks quality in standards of show productions. These visitors or more precisely (in the term used by the government offcials starting from arrival at customs & immigration and moving all the way up to State House) "these foreign Guyanese who ran from Guyana" are native born Guyanese who, over the years, have given much of their time and energy towards the cultural and performing arts scene of that coontry. Many of them achieved great qualities of artistic excellence in the field of Culture in Guyana and have made major contributions to the cultural fabric of that society.

In the late 1970s through the 1980s, Guyana's top performing artists left because of the deteriorating political conditions in the country ( a situation which still exists despite "a return to democracv"). They chose migration a means to find the artistic fulfillment they yeamed for, rather than remain to become guinea-pigs in the bizarre environment imposed by our politicians and its grotesque style of party politics As we all know, Guyana's creative and artistic life has greatly deteriorated over the past six to ten years. Today, even under the PPP/Civic regime, Guyana is burdened with a culturally barren and sterile conditions and the country is in dire need of some semblance of artistic and cultural qualities.

The attitude of the PPP/Civic Government - its Ministry of Finance, its Customs & Immigration and Taxation Department ofificials, party hacks and government employees, smacks of a total disregard and disrespect towards, not only to "these foreign Guyanese artists" who return to perform in Guyana, but also any Guyanese visitor or returning immigrant who rally the call of the "Visit Guyana Year" or the "Come Back Home" call of the country's President, government and Parliament. Accomplished and highly respected in the performing arts world, "these foreign Guyanese" artists have continuously and consistently shared their expertise and talents with the Guyanese nation, whether in Guyana or abroad, and have brought much kudos to Guyana whenever they have appeared. As a matter of fact, is precisely "these foreign Guyanese" artists who have given any existing form of dignity and respectability to Guyana in the international foreign eye.

From the time a "foreign Guyanese" lands at Timehri, up to until he or she passes through immigration when leaving, we are faced with a rude, uncouth, crude and avariciously corrupt attitude which has become a natural phenomenon in the "new Guyana" culture, attitudes which belies government's overseas calls and speeches to "come back, support and help build your country" Recently, one "foreign Guyanese anist, Mr. Dheeraj Gayaram of New York, became a victim of Guyanese style politics with those who sit politically on high and never knew that a bribe would be in perfect order with government officials. Invited as a production consultant and performer at a cultural event in Georgetown which was organised by his sister, a resident of Alexander Village, Mr. Gayaram was informed that he had to pay a 33% tax as a "foreign" Guyanese artist tax before the show commenced Secondly, that apart from paying the National Cultural Center the required rental fees for the auditorium and its accompanying facilities (which could hardly be equated with the high fees involved) he also had to give the Center 25% of the gross ticket sales.

It is claimed that the PPP/Civic introduced these measures because (through no fault of the "foreign Guyanese" artists) Amitabh Bacchan, the well known Indian film star, drained some $250,000 US out of the national treasury in a performance deal which the government readily allowed about two years ago. The Guyana government's Foreign Reserve, greatly affected by this situation, now turned and imposed these taxes on "foreign Guyanese" artists to retrieve the money which Amitabh had taken out of the country in a suitcase. Many government officials actively participated in and attended Mr. Amitabh Bacchan perfommances and reception! We "foreign" Guyanese know that the PPP looks disdainfully on Guyanese who they claim "ran away and left them to fight the PNC ogre alone". As a matter of fact the majority of us who left Guyana could make it elsewhere which is little left to be said of the career PPP hierarchy who couldn't make it anywhere else but in the bizarre political world of Guyana. So with a pretty macabre-politica l style attitude the PPP/Civic government takes their venom out on the visiting "foreign" Guyanese artists.

We need to decide whether we want to continue supporting Guyanese politicians and government offlcials who come up here to obtain US dollars from "these foreign" Guyanese living in North America. These handsome sums of money are taken back and sunk into Guyana's political parties and the national political mess that Guyana has become renowned for. We "foreign" Guyanese should put our foot down on the gross disregard showed by Guyana Government offlcials and employees who welcome our "foreign" green-back dollars and we should lobby the USA Congress to bar these visiting political charlatans from coming here for their fund.raising stints. Let the Guyanese politicians beware! Instead of the PNC/Civic government penalizing "foreign" Guyanese artists they should clean up their act, sell their "foreign" cars which they all sport in Georgetown. I wonder where fhey get the money to buy these multi-grand dollar Japanese and American cars, considering they all claim to be struggling politicians - is it from the "foreign" Guyanese abroad?

Finally our "foreign Guyanese" message is very clear: "Wake up Dr Jagan and the PPP/Civic government regime! You and your 'square pegs in a round hole' cabinet members could keep your foreign artist tax laws - we, on the other hand, will keep our Americam green-back dollars in New York. Don't visit or look to 'these foreign Guyanese' when you and your politicians come to North America a-begging for our $50 US dollars a plate dinner support to finance your 1997 Guyana elections campaign.