‘It is like 1991 all over again’
Economist Ryan Straughn said the new tax announced last week by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and a pending salary increase for parliamentarians had triggered memories of 1991 when Government ministers received a ten per cent pay rise, while public servants wages were cut by eight per cent.
In resolutions yet to be debated in Parliament, Government has proposed a ten per cent hike in pay for all Cabinet members, Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Secretaries, and Senators.
Meantime, Sinckler announced in the 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that a two per cent National Social Responsibility Levy would be imposed on imports effective September 1.
The Minister of Finance estimated that Government would raise $142.1 million in additional revenue from the measure.
Addressing a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) meeting in St Michael West on Sunday, Straughn said this situation was eerily similar to what happened 25 years ago.
“You just increased everybody’s cost of living by two per cent since introduction of the National Social Responsibility Levy, but these fellows intend to increase their salaries by ten per cent,” the BLP Christ Church East Central candidate told party supporters.
“This sounds familiar because in the early 1990s they increased their salary by ten per cent and then cut everybody else’s own by eight, and now in 2016 they are increasing theirs by ten and then taking two per cent of out of everybody else’s pocket. So, in effect, they’re eight per cent better off than everybody else.
“What is it about the Democratic Labour Party that eight per cent seems to be a recurring theme?” he queried.
Straughn, who just two days before the budget presentation had predicted Barbadians would be burdened with more than $120 million in additional taxes, said the heavy tax burden imposed during the current Democratic Labour Party administration had not helped to turn the economic or social situation around.
“After all of this money that each of us line up and pay, year after year, there isn’t a public service in Barbados right now that you can say with confidence is working,” he contended.
The Opposition candidate described the budget as a theatrical play without any specific, substantive measures that Barbadians could “take to the bank, have some faith in, or can articulate that would truly make our lives just a little better”.
“When you tax citizens, you have to deliver something tangible that is of benefit, not just today, but going forward, and I am not seeing that happening right now . . . There is nothing tangible that we could say is going to take us into the next 50 years with confidence. There is nothing that we can point to in Barbados that we can say is working,” Straughn added.