BAS block

Paul says hoteliers should not receive tax breaks before signing MOU

The Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) is moving to block tax concessions that hoteliers are about to access unless systems to prevent fraud and protect the agriculture and manufacturing sectors are first put in place.

Chief executive officer James Paul is insisting that unless hoteliers sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) with the BAS and the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) they should not get a cent in tax breaks.

He said he would be appealing to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler on these matters.

Sinckler announced yesterday at the third quarterly general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) that from next week, hotel properties would have access to promised concessions similar to those given to Jamaican hotel chain Sandals, but under several conditions. Those include signing the MOU which stipulates, among other things, that hoteliers first source products locally before looking outside of Barbados.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler addressing yesterday's meeting.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler addressing yesterday’s meeting.

However, in response to concerns raised by BHTA president Sunil Chatrani about the MOU requirement, Sinckler said that while it was best for the parties to sign the memorandum, he would still allow the concessions to be accessed if it was not.

But Paul is adamant that the MOU should be a prerequisite for the tax breaks and not an option. He also argued that there was no guarantee that products imported by hoteliers would end up in the tourism sector – an area of specific concern for the BAS.

“If we don’t have a good policing system, we all know what goes on in this country. Things come in for one purpose and they find themselves other places. We don’t even have the systems in place to police that right now, to say what they want is actually what they are gong to use in the hotel. We don’t even have that in place and they want us to rush off and give these concessions without an MOU. We have to put a lot of things in place,” Paul told the media today.

“We are dealing with a situation where, if we allow the implementation of the concessions in the way in which they conceive it is going to go, it could lead to huge fraud in this country. And who would be undermined? Our local production sector. Jobs [are] at stake. That is what they don’t seem to understand.”

“In other countries, even in Jamaica where this happens, they have a very strict regime that if, for instance, a product is found not be used in the tourism sector they lose the licence immediately. So you must understand what we are dealing with here,” Paul contended.

He said the MOU negotiated between the BAS, BHTA and the BMA would address that concern and it therefore had to be signed.

Paul said he found it “strange” and “diabolical” that, after negotiating the MOU “in good faith” and listening to the concerns of the BAS and the BMA, Chatrani would now raise concerns about signing the MOU.

“He is implying that, first of all, he wants the concessions but he doesn’t want to sign the MOU. That certainly is something that we cannot support. How I interpret the words of Mr Chatrani is ‘give us the concessions and we may or may not support the local productive sector’,” Paul said, adding that the BHTA’s position came across as disrespectful to the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

“It seems as if it is strong-arm tactics. I know they are going to say the economy needs tourism and we need the foreign exchange, and it seems to me there is some attempt to use some type of panic . . . We cannot be thinking that way.”

Saying that the BAS was only asking for was fairness and equity, Paul said Sandals had already made its commitment to source products locally, once the items could be produced here, before looking elsewhere.

“I want to say to the Barbadian public to stand behind the agriculture sector because they can’t employ everybody in the tourism sector . . . We cannot have a situation where the tourism sector seems to think they should be granted millions of dollars in concession on taxpayers’ backs in this country and at the same time they have no responsibility whatsoever to develop the other sectors. It cannot be that,” Paul insisted.

Last week Chatrani told Barbados TODAY recommendations put forward by the BHTA were not included in the final draft of the MOU seen by the association.

However, Paul said today that if the BHTA had any concerns about what was contained in the document, the association should have asked for a meeting to discuss it and come up with a solution. He said the BAS was willing to meet with the BHTA to thrash out any concerns.

Meanwhile, executive director of the BMA Bobbi McKay told Barbados TODAY that while she was satisfied with the conditions outlined for the tourism industry to access the concessions, the MOU needed to be signed.

Executive director of teh BMA, Bobbi McKay.
Executive director of teh BMA, Bobbi McKay.

“I would feel more comfortable with a commitment from the tourism sector and not just a gentleman’s agreement and a handshake. This is too important for Barbados . . . We need to feel more confident that we are going to get the opportunity. This is taxpayers’ money that we are playing with,” she said.

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3 Responses to BAS block

  1. Rosemary Parkinson
    Rosemary Parkinson September 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I agree with James Paul. Home first and then overseas if you have to. But this should come with certain assurances – the agricultural sector has to up its own mandate so that (a) better concessions are given to farmers, (b) organic farming is totally recognized as the only way to improve the health of the country (c) ban GMO seeds and pesticides like other countries with more sense have. Then the manufacturing sector also has to up its (a) production (b) its consistency in that production (c) the necessity to open niches and not to just do what is done already – i.e. we have more syrups, jams, jellies and sauces than the whole world put together… for instance…there is a dire need for products made from our dairy cattle so required by the hotel industry such as butter, cheeses, cream, yoghurt…does not take a rocket scientist.

  2. Tony Waterman September 12, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Although i can see where Mr. Paul is coming from, why was there no mention of this before the Minister announced these Concesisons to the Other Hoteliers, and DID Sandals SIGN this MOU in order to access these Concessions????
    On the other hand Mr.Paul you seem to CRY WOLF very often, your last Wolf call ended up being absolutely nothing to worry about (The Chicken Wing Escapade) you should be going after Finance Minister Sinckler for not being Clear and concise on how he intends to implement and track these Concessions.

  3. Rickie Nurse September 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    I have no problem what so ever with James Paul’s request for a signing of a MOU, protection needs to be in place for our local agriculture industry. My one query is, was a or the same MOU signed when agreement and the concessions were granted to Sandal Group? if so then by all means the BHTA and it’s members so signed the MOU. But do not ask the BHTA to be a signatory to something that was not a stipulation to an outside entity entering our business sector.


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