Barbadians are in line for a new suite of tax incentives as soon as they return the Barbados Labour Party to office after just one term in Opposition.
Warning that the island was “spiraling downward” and in real danger of becoming a “failed society”, BLP leader Owen Arthur tonight appealed to Barbadians to give his “confident and dynamic” team a chance to fix things, and he gave voters a teaser of the relief to come shortly in the party’s manifesto.
The former Prime Minister outlined the plans as part of a programme to “put money back in people’s pockets”, as he also warned his colleagues and Barbadians to brace themselves for what they were likely to inherit from the Freundel Stuart-led Government, including $150 million in expenditure cuts, if voters gave the BLP the nod on February 21.
Quoting from his party’s manifesto, Arthur said “a comprehensive programme of tax relief and incentives is now necessary to help restore economic growth, improve people’s incomes and wealth and open new opportunities for development and transformation”.
Among the tax relief measures he said a new BLP administration led by him would introduce over the next five years were those benefiting Barbadians ranging from pensioners to professionals. It included the restoration of tax free entertainment and travel allowances in addition to: * Increasing the land tax exemption threshold from $150,000 to $200,000, thereby removing 18,000 property owners from the payment of land tax. * Home owners liable to land tax would pay just half of the approved value, a benefit now available to pensioners. * Introduce a middle income tax band that applies a 25 per cent marginal rate to taxable income between $35,000 and $50,000. The current tax rate is 33 per cent. * Increase the reverse tax credit to $15,000 for people earning $20,000 or less. * Increase the personal income tax allowances for pensioners from $40,000 to $50,000. * Allow people to earn a tax credit on up to $10,000 in a registered education savings plan for education of their children. * Introduce a health care tax allowance to be used for the care of the elderly, medical and drug bills and up to $10,000 annually to purchase health insurance.
In a more than hour-long speech before a large crowd gathered for the BLP’s introduction of its candidates at Carlisle car park, Arthur also promised professional sports men and women and entertainers who earned foreign exchange they would only be required to pay tax at 1.5 per cent, the same as international business companies.
Additionally, he said all young professionals would benefit from a new regime where they would pay a graduated structure of fees that you pay your professional fees based on upon years of experience.
“So that young people coming into the job market are not laboured with professional fees that really should apply to … persons who have had 40 years of experience and are many, many times too rich for their own use and should help the Treasury,” he said.
Thanking Barbadians for “the personal support and adulation” they were showing him in the current general elections campaign, the BLP leader said he felt inspired and energised.
And as he announced that the BLP would be suspending its electioneering on Ash Wednesday, out of respect for the Lenten Season, Arthur said his team of men and women were now charged with saving Barbados. “It is the mission of this generation of Barbados Labour Party people to save our beloved country from becoming a failed society,” he said.
“And you must not believe that societies cannot fail, they have in history been instances where whole civilisations have vanished and in our time we have seen situations where countries have had to endure periods of prolonged decay and decline from which they have found it almost impossible to extricate themselves.
“On present course, because of the policies of the Democratic Labour Party our beloved Barbados is on course to becoming another failed society, one of those types that [are] now strewn [in] the developing world because we are in danger of falling behind, we are in danger of being behind and we are in danger of going under.
“And the mission of this team is to stop Barbados from falling behind, it is to stop Barbados from being left behind and it is to stop … our precious Barbados from going under. And I present this as the next Government of this country with that powerful and overwhelming mandate to rescue this country from disaster that has overtaken so many,” he vowed. Arthur said with the Barbados economy in deep trouble it was his aim to ensure all of its engines were firing.
“Barbados is failing because this Government does not understand the changed environment in which our development is now taking place,” he said.
“I am asking you for the opportunity to change that. I am giving you a pledge that I just want to make this country be governed better. Barbados has opportunities waiting to be grasped if we are prepared to open up our imagination to do new things in new ways and old things in new ways,” he said. (SC)