Members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) are not happy they have been left out of the discussions regarding the establishment of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).
And president of the BCCI, Lalu Vaswani, has called on the Fruendel Stuart administration to work closer with the private sector in the effort to put the island back on a growth path.
He was speaking at the BCCI’s monthly luncheon at the Hilton Barbados Resort, which was attended by Minister of Industry and International Business Donville Inniss.
Ironically, it was at a BCCI luncheon last year that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced that Government was moving full steam ahead to have the BRA established.
The BRA is a merger of the Land Tax, Value Added Tax, Licensing, Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise Departments, the island’s major tax collecting agencies.
“We note that the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs has implemented the Barbados Revenue Authority as a means of improving the base of tax collection as well as its efficiency. Minister, members have noticed with some surprise the lack of representation of the international business sector or the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” Vaswani said.
He said “one would expect” that Government would wish to have direct access to contribution from the private sector that was “wide ranging and experienced”.
“Respectfully, minister, please inform your colleagues at Cabinet that the private sector is chomping at the bit to get investments going. Work with us in a committed and sustained fashion, for Barbados not only deserves this but does not have any other viable option to succeed. We cannot grow our economy by increasing taxation, but rather by increasing investment,” Vaswani stated.
He said the private sector was also concerned about the lack of timely feedback on the progress being made on Government’s outlined budgetary initiatives designed to correct the economic woes.
“It is imperative that the Social Partnership is kept fully briefed if, as Government rightly expects, that labour and capital should work in a spirit of cooperation to see the nation’s finances restored to good health. Eight months after the budgetary proposals the Social Partnership is yet to receive the regular and timely progress reports on the corrective economic measures,” he said.
Vaswani quickly pointed out that prior to the BCCI luncheon he was attending a meeting of the Social Partnership and some information on Government’s progress was being shared.
“That is the point that we have been trying to make. Let us know the facts . . . that there 59 things that the Budget said they were going to do, 25 have been completed, 13 are 80 per cent completed, another 13 have problems, three are on hold, and each and every point . . . where we can make improvement and what is looking ahead for the year ahead,” he said.
“This should have been about the third update that we are receiving. If you want confidence in the private sector, the private sector is not afraid of investing but they need to know the environment and the progress that we are making,” he added, noting that there needed to be dialogue to “formally extend the Social Partnership”.