There are always unintended consequences of our actions. The big picture lessons of the brouhaha around Gabriel Faria’s WhatsApp message are that the private views of public officials are seen as expressions of the organisation, and that business survival post-Covid-19 requires aggressive strategies by the government.
Gabriel Faria spoke his truth inappropriately and he is enjoying (sic) the consequences of his action. His truth however, has once again highlighted a number of issues which require urgent consideration and a plan for business continuity.
First, it is unreasonable to calculate second quarter 2020 taxes using 2019 data because there was no income in 2020. We were all hiding from Covid-19 and carefully obeying the government’s instructions, so demand for goods and services was significantly reduced or non-existent.
The same government who asked landlords to be reasonable with their tenants is now being unreasonable with respect to quarterly taxes from the business community.
Second is the issue of unpaid VAT, which is now being compounded by the fact that businesses have issued invoices but the money is not being received. They are however expected to pay the VAT on those invoices.
VAT guidelines were set up in happier times when a complete lock down of the country was not anticipated.
The government has an opportunity to review their position and take urgent action to throw a lifeline for businesses to continue operating.
The government has identified a number of initiatives aimed at supporting businesses which have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic—but the roll out has been painfully slow while the bank charges are accumulating.
Many landlords have also not been accommodating with their rental expectations, as suggested by the government. The point is that expenses have continued while income has not, so it’s almost impossible to honour commitments.
If we are serious about recovery, our most important task is do what we can to keep businesses alive. That begins with an open discussion in a safe space where business people feel no fear of repercussions for their honesty. A collaborative approach may yield an outcome which has so far not been contemplated.
To the person who shared that WhatsApp message with the Prime Minister: I hope you are sleeping well and can look Gabriel Faria in the eyes next time you see him. Several WhatsApp groups operate according to Chatham House rules which date back to 1927 and were designed to encourage a free flow of information and discussion, with participants being duty-bound to protect the identity and affiliation of the authors.
Maybe you are unaware of the expectations of honourable persons and felt the need to ingratiate yourself to the prime minister; but right now you should be on edge because it is only a matter of time before the ‘truth is out’ and you are identified.
As for the prime minister, his actions have cut off the potential for future supply of critical information which could be used strategically.