13 January 2011
BlackBerry and Taxes...
It makes sense to make life difficult for foreign businesses operating in a country when that foreign business is not complying with the prevailing laws and regulations. After all, fair is fair. If the laws and regulations apply to Indonesian companies doing business in Indonesia then a fair shake of the cherry tree must see foreign businesses complying with the prevailing laws and regulations too.
Truth be told, Indonesian businesses that head into foreign markets will undoubtedly have to comply with the prevailing laws and regulations of the country where they begin operating. What goes around, comes around, including taxes.
So, Pay Your Taxes: Prove Your Love For The Motherland" (Membayar Pajak: Bukti Cinta Tanah Air)
However, it does not make sense that a company; local or foreign, must pander to the personal desires, wishes and agenda of an individual, even where that individual is the Minister of [Mis]Communication and [Mis]Information, Tifatul Sembiring (aka TitS). Indonesia has moved on from the iron-hand business practices of Soeharto and his cronies, has it not? Indonesia has become an economy that has a conducive investment climate based on the rule of law, right?
This is what makes the TitS crusade so bizarre. It is no longer looking like the government trying to enforce prevailing laws and regulations, rather it looks like a man on a mission to eradicate pornography from the Red & White Republic at all costs by waging a one-man war against RIM. TitS where are the statistics that show RIM and their BlackBerry Smartphones are leading the charge of porn downloaded by Indonesians. I reckon, at least anecdotally, that the Minister would find that traditionally it has been the small internet cafes that have been at the forefront of the porn boom in Indonesia.
So desperate is TitS to beat down RIM he has gone outside his mandate to try and portray this spat as one that has a nationalist pride angle to it. In fact, TitS has decided that, in his opinion, RIM is a marauding infidel invader that has only come to Indonesia to rape and pillage her of her resources and wealth, and pay no taxes into the bargain.
Taxes are generally the domain of the Minister For Finance, and perhaps the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, but generally taxes are not the primary concern of ministers in other fields. In light of the TitS charge, it is worth asking whether RIM pays its dues. The reality is, if RIM has not been paying its financial obligations then why has it taken a spat over porn filters to make this publicly known?
Starting to look like a good ol' shakedown.
According to Gregory Wade, Southeast Asia Managing Director for RIM, they have. The actual statement went along the lines of RIM makes a habit of complying with, and therefore obeying, the laws and regulations of every country within which they operate or have business interests ("RIM dutifully pays all applicable taxes that are exercised from its business within the region in the same manner as all other importing manufacturers".)
This gives rise to the obvious question: "Was TitS lying to the Indonesian people about RIM and what it does and doesn't do with regards to tax obligations?"
If TitS was lying, or in more delicate terms "deliberately misrepresenting the truth", should he resign? And, if TitS will not resign is it time that the President fired him for gross incompetence?
It is unlikely that either will happen.
For TitS it sort of reminds me of that famous Top Gun quote: "Son, your ego is writing checks that your body can't cash!" In other words he is so full of himself and his abilities he has not realised yet that he is not going to be able to deliver on the threats that he is making.
For president SBY to fire TitS it would seem that TitS would have to make a move on the first lady and try and convince her to become wife number 5. SBY just does not have the testicular fortitude to fire a Minister unless the puppet-masters give him the go ahead. The best case scenario is a reshuffle that sees TitS move to a different portfolio where he could do less harm (if there is a portfolio where he can do less harm). Indonesia has been living with the promise of a cabinet reshuffle for almost the whole of SBY's second term as president.
Twitter is a great place to communicate, and perhaps it is a great place to sell your message, it is probably not a good place to be telling lies and / or misrepresenting the truth to your constituents.