The Opposition Barbados Labour Party is appealing to the Freundel Stuart Administration to summon an urgent recall of Parliament in order to correct or clarify major discrepancies in this year’s Budget, which it claims are creating fear and confusion in the country.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley told a news briefing at her office in Parliament Buildings this afternoon that the Lower Chamber needed to end the summer recess before its October 15 schedule, because several of the fiscal measures announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler face implementation problems due to a lack of clarity or because the tax rates revealed in the Budget, are in variance with those published in a recent newspaper advertisement by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.
Mottley said it was even more critical that Parliament meets urgently considering that, under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, whatever a minister of finance says in a Budget in Parliament, becomes law immediately and is enforceable, up to four months, before actual legislation was required to ratify it.
She also pointed out that there were differences in what was in the Budget and what Government ministers were now saying.
“There are a number of issues coming out of the Budget that have caused a sense of fear to envelope in different parts of this country. Workers in the public service, persons in companies and individual taxpayers who have no clarity as to what is required of them.
“And the one sure thing that we must deal with is to create a mode of confidence based on clear measures, such that people know … what is expected of them in terms of payments, particularly in relation to taxes and what may befall them in terms of their employment and their circumstances,” she declared.
Mottley insisted that one of the measures Government must correct if the country was to survive the current crisis and bring back confidence, was the temporary Fiscal Consolidation Tax.
“The temporary Fiscal Consolidation Tax as announced by the minister of finance in his words is reflected here, only in a matter of 25 words or less, as a summary and a timeline and estimated revenue to be collected. What did he actually say?” she asked.
“Simply that there would be a temporary Fiscal Consolidation Tax … on gross incomes of $50,000 and above to be applied as follows. And he sets out rates, which are fundamentally different from the rates now given by the commissioner of inland revenue in a full page ad … last Wednesday, August 28,” Mottley stated.
She said not only was the rate wrong, there was also a difference between the minister of finance and the commissioner of inland revenue on the rate of tax to be charged this month. She said another mistake was identified by Minister of Industry, International Business and Commerce, Donville Inniss, “who indicated that the Solid Waste Municipal Tax at a rate of 0.7 per cent is a mistake”.
“Now I find it strange that something which is a mistake cannot be corrected in the last two weeks he identified the mistake. And it is because it is not a mistake, it is a decision to reverse and change the rate after the outcry by Barbadians across the board that this tax is too onerous,” concluded the Opposition MP.
The Opposition Leader suggested that this matter was not an academic one, but an issue which relates to the capacity of people to sustain their families and their livelihood.
“The Prime Minister and the minister of finance have both refused to own the measures, as they have refused to own the crisis. And they refused to own the measures by allowing confusion to reign in relation to both the tax measures, in relation to the expenditure adjustments and regrettably, equally in relation to the outcome of what they say these measures will bring,” continued Mottley.
The BLP political leader told reporters the feedback they were getting from people is that they do not know the true taxes they are required to pay, “whether it is the stabilisation tax or indeed, in their planning for the solid waste municipal tax and what in relation to workers within government and statutory corporations, what would become of them, since they are not appointed, even if they are in position for seven years, 10 years, three years, one year, five years.” (EJ)