Reduce taxes, return the reverse tax credit and stop the bureaucracy. Those are the demands of Barbadians as outlined in the latest study from the University of the West Indies’ Management Department into the impact of the 2013 Budgetary measures.
The study, conducted among 1,004 Barbadians by department lecturer at the Cave Hill Campus, Dwayne Devonish, and released to Barbados TODAY, pointed to the severe impacts some believe were being caused by the measures imposed by the 2013 Budget.
Asked what suggestions they would put to Government to help them cope with the tough economic conditions, Devonish reported: “The top three suggestions were (1) reduction on taxes (for example, VAT) to encourage spending and [provide] ease for consumers; (2) return the Reverse Tax Credit to the original amount; and (3) improve Government and public sector efficiency by removing the strict bureaucracy that delays important decisions affecting the country.”
Given that the measures of the Budget had been praised by some and criticized by others, Devonish said the study, which was begun in the last week of October and run over a two-week period, was done to assess Barbadians perceptions of the measures, how they have impacted their lifestyles or way of life, personal adjustments made to cope with the measures, and suggestions for Government to improve their current
way of living or ability to cope with the austere environment.
“Barbadians were asked to rate the Government measures [from the August 2013 Budget] with which they were most satisfied [and most dissatisfied]. In terms of general satisfaction, the top three measures [rated positively by at least 65 per cent of Barbadians] were [in order of rank]: (1) the financial investment in marketing and promotion of Barbados through BTA and Invest Barbados [this was highlighted to create an attractive national profile of the country to both tourists and investors]; (2) sale of the Four Seasons Project to international investors [this was stated to create jobs for contractors, and construction and hotel workers]; and (3) establishment of a National Business Facilitation Unit to support and generate both local and foreign business.
“Clearly, the measures that Barbadians were most satisfied were largely investment-oriented measures emanating from the Budget which had the potential to create jobs and opportunities for businesses.
Other measures that were viewed positively included the introduction of the Special Entry Permit for foreigners who own substantial property, establishment of the “Green Initiative” and related projects, and investments in the renewable energy sector,” he said in a brief summary of the findings.
The measures Barbadians were most dissatisfied with, though, were those based on expenditure control.
They rated the 100 per cent tuition fee payment for
UWI students as their top grouse, followed by the reduction of the Reverse Tax Credit, and then the freeze on public sector hiring.
“Other measures highlighted that Barbadians were dissatisfied with included the consolidation tax on gross income [BDS$50,000 and over], the solid waste tax, the tax on commercial banks assets, and excise tax on tobacco products,” he highlighted.
Barbadians also cried out on the impact on their pockets, with most noting that there had been a significant reduction in their disposable income and personal savings. Respondents also said that they had an increased motivation to generate additional income from entrepreneurial activities, while others yet noted they had experienced an increased dependence on social services and welfare from Government.
“In terms of personal adjustments to cope with the measures, Barbadians cited these three most popular styles of adjustments [in order of rank]: (1) significant cutbacks on spending or spending on necessity items; (2) generating additional sources or avenues of income [renting a room in home; selling personal items; and starting a small business]; and (3) sourcing financial assistance from social agencies and other relatives/parties.”
In summary, Devonish said: “Overall, Barbadians in the survey are hoping for an ease in these tough economic times, especially in areas of their spending and personal savings. In the survey, it was also found that at least 65 per cent of those currently employed indicated that they had not received a pay increase within the last five years or since the inception of their employment.”
The lecturer said next January he was hoping to conduct a follow-up consumer confidence survey similar to what was done just ahead of the Budget. He said he hoped this one would show whether things were getting better or worse.
“We, at the UWI, are committed to conducting sound, scientific research that affects and reaches the public and tells the empirical and unbiased stories of the people,” said the management studies lecturer.