A case of the last straw

After persons are incrementally burdened, there comes a time when the last load causes a severe reaction. The last load may be relatively light and insignificant, but if it is the proverbial last straw, the entire load may be rejected by the burdened.

A woman may be ill-treated for decades, and may appear to put up with it.  But one day, a relatively minor incident may be the catalyst for the woman to leave the relationship. The man may wonder why such a drastic step was taken for such a relatively minor incident. However, he should consider the cumulative effect of the previous loads.  A wise man would start gingerly removing those previous loads.

Employees may put up with years of ill-treatment by incompetent managers.  But one day, after a relatively minor incident that could be easily resolved, the workers may decide to strike en-masse.  The last minor incident was simply the last straw for them.

The employer may win the public relations battle in identifying the relatively minor nature of the “last straw” incident.  However, to actually resolve the problem, all past ‘loads’ need to be addressed. Just addressing the final straw only delays the inevitable industrial action.

As the largest employer, the Government should move with haste to improve the management of Government departments and statutory corporations in order to avoid that last straw.  The international quality management standard, ISO 9001, should be implemented with dispatch.

Approximately nine years ago, the Government increased the annual registration fee for me to practise engineering in Barbados from $500 to $2,500, and I had no choice but to pay it. Then the Government increased VAT, and I had no choice but to pay the increased tax.  They also applied a Consolidation tax to my income tax, and I had no choice but to pay that also.

The Government then burdened me with a solid waste tax, and I thought that that tax was the last straw. However, they introduced a tax clearance certificate which I had to obtain in order to participate in the national economy, so I had no choice but to pay the solid waste tax. They have now invented a National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), and I will have no choice but to pay that too.  It is amazing at how resilient some Barbadians can be.  However, not all are so resilient.

The Government determined that more revenues were required.  So they increased taxes on all of us in an equitable manner. Then some sectors decided that the tax increase was the last straw for them.  Whenever the tourism sector, international business sector, or any other sector of the economy decides that a tax is their last straw, then what they are actually saying is that the Government must remove the tax burden from them, and place it on the rest of us. The unions are now claiming that the NSRL is their last straw.

I shop at stores that are conveniently located on my travelling routes. I noticed the cost of items increasing, but I can do little to change that, so I pay for the items without complaining.  However, I have an understanding with these stores. They bag my goods and I walk around with their bags and advertise their stores. I do not mind advertising the stores that I patronize, because I normally patronize stores where I feel that I am getting value for the money that I spend.

I recently went into a supermarket, and after the cashier totalled the items that I intended to purchase, the cashier asked whether I wanted to purchase a plastic bag for 15 cents. I could easily afford the 15 cents, but why charge me to advertise their store?

Then I saw my checked-out groceries laying unbagged on the cashier’s counter, and they were too numerous for me to carry out of the store in my hands. I recalled the past nine years of being forced to pay not only my taxes, but the taxes of those sectors which receive “Government relief”.  To now have this store, which has already included the cost of the plastic bags in the products, to try to force me to pay for the plastic bag that I have already paid for, was my last straw.

I paid for the items, but I realized that I did have a choice and I made it.  I decided to never patronize that supermarket for the rest of my life.

(Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com)

20 Responses to A case of the last straw

  1. Monica Wilson
    Monica Wilson June 28, 2017 at 11:42 am

    well said. good article

  2. Jason
    Jason' UncleBen 'Parris June 28, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Plastic bags causing a lot of issues.

  3. Charming Forde
    Charming Forde June 28, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    My choice would have been to walk away without paying for the items and shop somewhere else.

  4. Shawn Luke
    Shawn Luke June 28, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    They are wrong to be charging customers for bags.

  5. Duane Burke
    Duane Burke June 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Pay for it now or pay for it much more later. Plastic bags clog the refuse system and do not break down. They harm wild life etc etc. Probably heard it many times before. However very unfortunate that someone who touts to be for a Solution to Barbados is propagating to exasperate an environmental and economic problem. Very myopic and disappointing.

    • Dominique Tudor
      Dominique Tudor June 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      Extremely myopic and disappointing.

    • Vicky Merrick
      Vicky Merrick June 28, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Short sighted. Sad. Bim needs more leadership on sustainable initiatives, less whining about inconveniences.

      • Robert toussaint July 1, 2017 at 10:13 am

        short sighted,you really didn’t get do you.

  6. Stephen Hall
    Stephen Hall June 28, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Reducing plastic waste in Bimshire should have been a government initiative, not from a few/many shops. Then you would quite happily have paid the tax, according to your comments. Protecting our environment is as important as every issue currently on the bigger agenda. Take your own recycling bags with you next time. I see someone collected over 200 plastic straws from a beach today. One turtle died from this same problem just days ago.

  7. Stephen Hall
    Stephen Hall June 28, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    The message about plastic and styrofoam needs more education across Bim. Those not in the know may have no idea that these problems are causing.

  8. Concerned voter June 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    This is an extremely myopic point of view. Plastic bags are destroying our environment , and you cannot be inconvenienced so you are too good to carry a bag that you can recycle ? It is 2017 and you coming with 1997 logic. I thought that you were about “soloutions”?

  9. Neil Hutchinson June 28, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Come on Grenville, I expected better of you…..this is a very backward way of looking at this serious environmental issue.

  10. Grenville Phillips June 29, 2017 at 12:20 am

    Dear All:

    This is a classic case of taking something out of its context. The point of the article was the proverbial last straw. For the wife, her last straw may have been an unwashed plate, or a sock not put away properly. These are minor issues, but may result in a drastic reaction. Therefore, the cumulative loads need to be examined – that was the point.

    Why blow the sock, or the plastic bag out of all proportion? I am an Environmental Engineer who cares about the environment – my 25 year professional career will prove that. Will charging someone 15 cents for each non-biodegradable plastic bag solve the problem? No – and we all know that it will not. Will charging $5 per plastic bag solve the problem? Perhaps. But is that the way we want to go? I do not think so.

    What about regulating that all plastic bags for retail customers must biodegrade within 90 days when exposed to sunlight, or 180 days when covered. Therefore it becomes a regulation issue that effectively solves the problem – and it can be implemented tomorrow (for the pedantic, all new bags to be ordered must comply with the new regulated standard).

    Further, if littering is a problem, then there are already fines of $5,000 for dumping. A suitable deterrent fine can be determined for individual litterers. Therefore, once again, it becomes a regulation issue that will likely be significantly more effective than the 15 cent plastic bag. There are several other more effective solutions that are economical to implement.

    On funding for the Future Centre Trust, why not place a jar at each cashier where people can place their change. This can be an effective fund-raising drive if it happens for a duration of one month at a time. It will likely realize significantly more revenue that the current initiative, with no negative fall-out.

    Best regards,

  11. D Maximus June 29, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Okaaaaay… so it’s “extremely myopic” because he does not present his case in a way that aligns with your train of thought… but isn’t your inability, or should I say outright refusal and what I could almost call eagerness to denounce his personal thought process regarding this matter simply just a different brand of myopia?

    I’m all for getting rid of as much plastic as possible from our environment… heck from the planet… but the more I read via social and mainstream media the more plotholes I see in this initiative and that were driven around rather than patched and there seems to be an underlying unwillingness to reverse and patch them.

    Kinda reminds me of our current administration’s “like it or lump it” approach if I might be permitted to borrow those old lyrics and I suspect this initiative could very well fall flat on its face due to lack of transparency public acceptance, the prerequisites for public support.

    It is often ill advised to try to force a people to do the right thing and not expect resistance… instead, I suggest holding their hands as a collective and including them in the thought process. They will be more likely to accept the outcome as part of their own design and embrace it. Just my quick 2c worth.

  12. Andrew Simpson June 29, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Grenville, are you suggesting that we not vote for either of the political parties that have been continuously piling on the taxation, ever again?

    • Robert toussaint July 1, 2017 at 10:24 am

      you said it !not Grenville

  13. Kevin Browne June 30, 2017 at 6:53 am

    I can’t believe the man wrote an entire article on the issue of burdensome taxation, choice or the ability to choose and the logic of the “last straw”, and you have people criticising the man because he didn’t like that he had to pay 15 cents for a plastic bag that he already paid for when he bought his groceries.

    Because for those people nothing else in the article is relevant but the fact that Greenville seems to be against plastic bag pollution, which actually isn’t the case. He’s simply against unfair and burdensome taxation. That’s the point of the article!

    Men talking about “myopic” and completely miss the entire point of the article to only see something they can beef with. Smh.


    • Robert toussaint July 1, 2017 at 10:45 am

      Agreed! Help them focus on the man’s point!

  14. Robert toussaint July 1, 2017 at 10:44 am

    I encountered a similar situation with less items; I will not go back and shop there.


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