YEAR IN REVIEW – ‘Everybody hates Chris’

Newsmaker of the Year – Embattled Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler

A month ago, his name was being dragged through the mud over his alleged ownership of a $2.5 million house at Rolling Hills, St George, which turned out to be a hoax.

Prior to that, there were even more vicious rumours circulating, which, if proven to be true, could have landed him behind bars.

However, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has been taking it all in stride, even with the proverbial economic monkey now seeming to be permanently strapped onto his back, amid a worrying national deficit in the order of five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), dwindling international reserves of less than $600 million and worrying debt in excess of 100 per cent of GDP.

Instead of going away, these problems appear to have ballooned over the past year, as did the chorus of discontent against the Freundel Stuart Government and its economic and financial policies.

In the midst of the difficulties, Sinckler – the man most people love to hate – has publicly maintained a rather brave face.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler

He has even joked on occasion that “everyone hates Chris”, a term borrowed from the sitcom that chronicles the misadventures of teenager named Chris as he grows up in 1980s Brooklyn.

The way he put it in Parliament recently was to say that he was being blamed for everything in Barbados, adding, facetiously, that if Opposition Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds got horned, “they blame me for it”.

Be that as it may, there could be no running away from the impact of his May 30, 2017 austerity Budget, which has adversely and singlehandedly impacted every household and every business in this country.

Sinckler’s $542 million package of tax measures were piled on top of an already over-taxed country in which salaries – except perhaps those of senior Government officials, including himself, who got back earlier this year the ten per cent pay they lost back in 2014 at the height of austerity – have been largely stationary over the past decade, while the cost of living has been on the rise.

The Budget included the increase of the now infamous National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which jumped from two per cent to ten per cent of the customs value of both imported and locally manufactured items, effective July 1, 2017.

Since then, both the NSRL and Sinckler have been at the centre of virtually every conversation, be it about the high cost of living, local food and other prices, a shortage of foreign exchange, rising unemployment, the real threat of devaluation of the Barbados dollar or the economy in general.

So controversial were Sinckler’s tax impositions that even some members of Cabinet initially found them hard to swallow.

In fact immediately after they were announced in Parliament, both Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick and Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss took exception to the levy, which is otherwise referred to as the NSRL, with Estwick warning his own administration that it simply could not “tax its way out” of its economic problems, and Inniss seriously cautioning that the NSRL would result in a rise in the cost of living, as he echoed the call by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley in her Budget reply, for provisions to be made to assist vulnerable citizens.

“All I ask is that we ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are not placed in any more of a disadvantageous or uncomfortable position,” Inniss had said at the time, while also pointing to concerns raised by the manufacturing sector over the increase in the NSRL.

“When they sell to other manufacturers the National Social Responsibility Levy is not applicable as far as I understand. But when the manufactured goods are sold to the retailers, the National Social Responsibility Levy is applicable, and therefore that leads to an increase in the cost of goods manufactured in Barbados. But it also places us in a position to be less competitive on the local market,” he said.

However, by the time the measure was put to the vote, both men appeared to have stifled their consciences as they voted in favour of the resolution.

With elections around the corner, analysts also said it was a last ditch attempt to save the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) from any needless public fallout.

However, based on a random survey conducted by Barbados TODAY in all 30 constituencies since then, it remains to be seen if anything will be able to pull the current administration back from the brink, given the significant backlash Sinckler and the Government as a whole have been receiving on account of the onerous tax measures.

Apart from calls for him to resign, many Barbadians who we came into contact with on the streets generously used colourful and unpublishable language to describe Sinckler, who was also blamed by supporters of the incumbent DLP for their decision to turn their backs on the party.

In fact, many openly declared their intention to stay away from the polls on Election Day, while others were undecided.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler.

As an even stronger indication of public discontent, in mid-July, thousands of Barbadians took to the streets of Bridgetown to urge Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to reconsider the dreaded tax increase that had sparked a string of protests by workers.

The Barbados Private Sector Association and leading trade unions organized the joint march to demonstrate against the hike in the NSRL.

Protesters held signs reading “People of Barbados Need Relief”, “Government Must Not See Black or White” and “Today We Endorse the Fellowship of Partnership” during the march.

Police estimated the turnout at the peaceful protest from Queen’s Park through the streets of The City to be as high as 20,000.

However, as the year drew to a close there was still no evidence of relief from the tax measures, even with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) strongly warning Government that its chances of achieving its deficit target this year were slim to none.

Following its two-week Article IV Consultation in November, the IMF team, led by its deputy division chief Judith Gold, also cautioned that Government’s programme was much too “ambitious”, while pointing out that the overall deficit was likely to fall by a mere two percentage points by the end of this fiscal year.

Back in May when Sinckler announced the programme he had said that Government was aiming to wipe out the deficit of $537.6 million and achieve a small surplus of $4.4 million.

However, Gold and her team warned that without divestment proceeds, the deficit would only decline to 4.1 per cent of GDP in financial year 2017/2018.

“The larger than expected fiscal deficit is increasing funding challenges,” Gold warned.

In terms of the performance of the actual measures, which included the steep rise in the NSRL, an introduction of a new sales tax on foreign currency transactions and a hike in the excise duty on fuel, the IMF reported that due to exemptions to the NSRL, lower-than-expected non-oil imports, shortfalls in some other revenues, and high transfers, Government was likely to fall short of its overall target.

The lending agency also warned that the country’s international reserves, which stood well below the 12 weeks benchmark at just 8.6 weeks of import cover or $549.7 million at the end of September, were likely to dip even further by year end as Government continues to service its debt, and private foreign inflows remain weak.

But with the Stuart administration currently not entertaining suggestions of a borrowing relationship with the Washington-based financial institution, the Fund said it welcomed progress in formulating the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Programme (BSRP), while emphasizing the need for immediate structural reforms, as well as reform of state-owned enterprises, which it said should include improved management, mergers, closures, and privatization.

With that said the new strategy, which was due to be laid in Parliament in December 2017, is still pending; so too the sale of the Hilton Barbados Resort and the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL ) which Government has been banking on to help shore up its dwindling reserves.

In a show of frustration last month over how slowly the process has been going, Sinckler publicly turned his fury on the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) which was at the time deliberating on its decision on the BNTCL sale to the Kyffin Simpson-led Sol group.

“I believe the Minister of Commerce [Donville Inniss] has indicated . . . gently I am sure . . . to the FTC, that the issuing of its final decision on the state of the sale of the BNTCL is now long overdue and must be done expeditiously, whatever that decision might be,” Sinckler told participants at the annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados.

“It is simply taking way too long in my opinion and frustrating all parties involved and potentially jeopardizing our economic plans,” he said, while seeking to make it abundantly clear that at this stage, he was less concerned with what its decision would be, than the fact that “after near nine months [and] no decision has been made”.

He stressed that the FTC needed to issue its ruling “so we can move on”.

However, the conditions attached to the FTC’s approval last month have proven to be a further setback to the sale, while Government also patiently awaits the court’s decision on a legal challenge brought by attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong to the development of a Hyatt hotel on Bay Street, St Michael.

Ex-Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler.

By year end, Sinckler’s hands appeared to be have been tied on these matters, but not on the appointment of a new Governor of the Central Bank.

On December 28, he publicly announced that Acting Governor Cleviston Haynes would be confirmed in this position in January after his bitter fallout with the former Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell back in February that ended up in Worrell’s sacking and Sinckler being hauled by the Governor before the court.

In late February the Court of Appeal threw out Worrell’s injunction blocking his dismissal from the top post.

However, Worrell’s attorney Gregory Nicholls has warned that the matter is far from over since Worrell intends to challenge, all the way to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice if necessary, the minister’s right to dismiss him.

That matter is still pending.


emmanueljoseph@barbadostoday.bb

28 Responses to YEAR IN REVIEW – ‘Everybody hates Chris’

  1. Kevin December 29, 2017 at 12:45 am

    All of the rumours, where just that rumors. Wunna cant touch he. Chris gine get re-elected.

    Reply
    • jennifer December 29, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Yep, he and Dem. keep watching. The longer the trial – the accuse gaining ground.

      Reply
  2. Harry December 29, 2017 at 5:00 am

    being re elected does change the fact that he is the WORST MOF this Country has ever suffered under.

    Reply
  3. archy perch December 29, 2017 at 6:11 am

    It is left to be seen Harry whether your opinion is true about Mr. Sinckler. One thing is certain, he holds the toughest position in government right now and may God continue to guide him. I know Barbados has hundreds of economists and Ministers of Finance out there, many of whom share their gobbledygook opinions of the countries economic standing on BrassTacks and social media. Facts are that the Barbados economy has and is showing growth. What Mr. Sinckler needs to do is let us know the names of all those businesses and businessmen – living large and financing the BLP – who owe the government 900-million dollars in VAT money. That is NOT their money, it was supposed to be collected on the governments behalf by these businesses. They are thieves. Charles Herbert should tell us what is the deal on that. SPEAK UP CHARLES……..i am all ears.

    Reply
    • MARIA Holder December 29, 2017 at 8:48 am

      You too funny. He would also have to name the ones supporting the DLP that is included in the $900M VAT debt – you might be shocked at what you see.

      Reply
  4. Carlisle Norville December 29, 2017 at 7:31 am

    what I stand perplexed about, is that it was stated that all the government try ,it cant seem to get the taxes owed to it, if the government cant get its taxes ,why does it not take these businesses to court ,why can’t a system be set up to make sure that taxes are collected on time .( Mr: Sinclair decided that since he cant get the taxes due, he would implement strategies to get his taxes from the populace , so we the ordinary people are in the scenario that says( Peter pay for Paul)government spending lots of money foolishly, giving away lots of incentives & allowing rich people to get away with murder, ( what we pretend ,is that we don’t know that Sinclair & other like him in government ,get lots of cash in their bank accounts, when these deals are made( WHEN ARE WE GOING TO HOLD MINISTERS acountable, for teafing the tax payers money, when.

    Reply
    • MARIA Holder December 29, 2017 at 8:38 am

      Why? because in too many cases the government owes the businesses more than the businesses owe them. When the VAT and Inland Revenue departments were separate entities, these were automatic set-offs in the electronic system. With the introduction of BRA, and a new, unschooled in the art of taxation Commissioner, combined with a Minister of Finance, who was also unschooled, the netting off was discontinued, among other calamitous things and now the situation has mushroomed to what it is. But, it is what it is, and only a supernatural intervention from God appears to be the answer.

      Reply
  5. Kathy December 29, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Barbados Today. What exactly are you getting out of publishing these scandalous pieces. Not all Barbadians are gullible or lacking in common sense. Some of us knows how to think for ourselves. Do you really think that any politician would put econpmic sanctions in place if it was not absolutely necessary.

    Reply
    • MARIA Holder December 29, 2017 at 8:45 am

      As sensible as you think your comment is, let me assure you that sanctions can be put in place but you cannot consistently put sanctions in place that do not have the intended effect and continue to expect persons to see you as being credible. When each budget is read, what the tax is expected to achieve is also outlined. To date, none of these measures have achieved what the Minister said they would achieve and yet he continues on the same path.

      Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results = what?

      Trump putting sanctions in place that he thinks are absolutely necessary too, including pushing his racist agenda. What say thee?

      Reply
  6. Freeagent December 29, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Chris, Barbadians would have loved you more if you had put them in the IMF’s hands.

    Reply
    • jennifer December 29, 2017 at 10:50 am

      yep

      Reply
  7. Buun December 29, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Hats off to Obama, who had the worst economy you can ever imagined and turned it around in less than 4 years.

    Reply
  8. Alex Alleyne December 29, 2017 at 10:27 am

    @Freeagent, don’t worry , all roads leads there…….sooner rather than later. (We too deep in the hole).
    Just brace yourself.

    Reply
  9. Buun December 29, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Mr. Silence, Mr. I Don’t know and Mr. Sure …

    They all worked as a team to save the Barbados economy until one day Mr. Sure said “NO” which was not his character, so Mr. I Don’t Know said to him … “You Have To Go!”

    Mr. Silence still remained silence, while Mr. I Don’t Know kept trying a thing here and there in the economy.

    I wonder who will “Have To Go 2018”?

    Reply
  10. Buun December 29, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Mr. Silence, Mr. I Don’t know and Mr. Sure …

    They all worked as a team to save the Barbados economy until one day Mr. Sure said “NO” which was not his character, so Mr. I Don’t Know said to him … “You Have To Go!”

    Mr. Silence still remained silence, while Mr. I Don’t Know kept trying a thing here and there in the economy.

    I wonder who will “Have To Go in 2018”?

    Reply
  11. Alex Alleyne December 29, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Barbados need 2 things ASAP. a “SMALL CLAIMS COURT & a PRIVATE FIRM “TAX COLLECTION AGENCY”.
    This should bring in some CASH or room and board at DODDS.
    “THERE SHALL BE NO SUCH THING AS “TAX FORGIVENESS” for the rich.

    Reply
  12. Ossie Moore December 29, 2017 at 11:59 am

    I aint read dis editorial or what yuh may call it yet but people see me laughing out loud want to know if I gone crazy; it was because of the theme heading.

    Reply
  13. JOHN GODDARD December 29, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    I know people like someone to blame for problems they all help to create, but really, do we think that it is fair and reasonable to use Chris as a scapegoat. Do we believe that our economic woes only started in 2008? This country was living off credit cards for many years now. The chickens have now come home to roost, and we want to kill Sinckler. We Bajans have been living beyond our means for years and successive governments, for fear of upsetting the electorate, kept using the credit cards until they were maxed out. We ought to be thankful that, notwithstanding the dire straits we are in, government still provides free Primary & secondary education, 80% contribution to university education; free health care at Polyclinics, District & Queen Elizabeth hospitals, free garbage collection and the list of freenesses go on.
    When will we wake up and smell the coffee? Even if we elect a new government, our economic problems will still remain. Cuss me now as much as you like, but that will not change our situation.

    Reply
    • jennifer December 29, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      well said.

      Reply
    • hcalndre December 29, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      @John Goddard; are you one of DEM that believe the taxes that are being taken from the people`s wages are only to pay the politicians? where you get this freeness mentality from.

      Reply
    • Atman December 29, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Hate to hear foolish talk bout gov’t provides free this and free that for the people of Barbados…NOTHING THAT GOV’T OVERSEES IS FREE TO US…OUR TAX DOLLARS PAY FOR EVERYTHING. Even when gov’t borrows money from foreign institutions it is our tax dollars that pay back the loans. Stop the foolish “free” talk!! Gov’t owns nothing and therefore cannot give anything, they are only there to manage the people’s business.

      Reply
  14. Ossie Moore December 29, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Muh dear good sir! I already request to de Transport Board for two defunked busses and I now looking for a piece o’ land prefurably in the east to where I will construct me prefab home. I have all the modification plans drawn up for the windows and so fourth. Ah a four acre piece ’round Bath or Foster Hall would do me fine. I hear up dey dus grow Okras two times a day and when it come to cucumbers the best Bajan Boys you can get! A few goats can eat the grass round de hedgerow and I can mek me own fertiliser from de few sheep up in de hill onlyest ting is I hafa keep de tieffs ‘way by letting-go me two Rothwowlers and Rodesian Ridgeback afta all; Buhbadus is a wonderful paradise especially up in de east and up hey no body worrying bout the lil young fella Chris cause he now got to come up here and get some experience on home grown stuff. He wis a little town boy!

    Reply
  15. milli watt December 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    ONLY HATE

    Reply
  16. jennifer December 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    We need all black ministers in Barbados for the new year to free up the minds of black people to get onto the wealth ladder, and not just as mere trend-ers and bottom feeders. Only time this people inclusive is when you all are spending monies. It is time to forget about inclusiveness, we don’t need it, we are giants on our own. All of the rich people world wide – I would bet do not have a masters or degree to their names.

    Reply
  17. hcalndre December 29, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    @Kevin; In Barbados politics, a politician don`t have to do a good job to be re-elected, the people just vote the party that they are married to whether they suffer or sink while the politicians get richer and richer. archy perch the economy is growing like a cow`s tail. The sewage disaster alone should be enough to put the whole DLP to rest. What about the air quality in that area, have it been tested?

    Reply
  18. Helicopter(8P) December 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Jennifer how many blacks are you willing to employ and at what wages ? I see you have your own international trade barriers already set and with whom are you willing to do trade and what products do you wish to import. I must tell you your new Zimbabwe shall prosper like never before and blessing to your all black businesses. Sounds more like the direct opposite to the KKK. I that what we are teaching to our youth here in Barbados ? Well wishful thinking! They’ve got a Jimmy Cliff number to sing and you should know it very well it goes like this ” I’ve got a rough, rough road to travel and a long, long way to go”!

    Reply
    • jennifer December 29, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      Your definition of prosper is clearly different to mine. We shall also see how the Zimbaweans proper as well. I bet you also agree that Rosa parks was right to sit in her seat so that the white woman would not sit. Have you ever looked at the other side of that coin – What if she had given up her seat and then black people just cleave and banded together and got their own buses, trains, planes, cruise liners, Wallstreet, federal reserve, clothing lines etc. Now that is the type of prospering I am talking about. Not clearly in the beneath position all the time, awaiting handouts. Do you know all nations was given their own lands to manage and proper. What happen to this people that they in such a position, merely trending and debt bearers, and in a state of dependency. If you cannot see what I am saying then something is out of sync and you clearly have a history and futuristic issue regarding this people. And despite what you think, I am only a truthful, person who call things the way it is. And the mind of the KKK group has one color (although if some black people could join they would) and two heads – the active head and the dormant head. And in my business I would do just like the Chinese, Asians, white etc and employ another races other than my own, especially for my stables. Good one on the jimmy cliff song – the road is shortening.

      Reply
    • jennifer December 29, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      I will tell you where the Zimbaweans will be – just where this majority people are – Only holding parliamentary positions for pacifying sake but not producing or owning anything major but only trending and financially supporting the other peoples. Climbing into other people back pockets too.
      And I am yet to see one white person come on here and stand up for the cause of black people, and that is because they love their position and people – good for them.
      Talking truth has absolutely nothing to do with being racist either.

      Reply

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