The new head of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) is calling for a tax review.
In her maiden address to the chamber’s business luncheon this afternoon after being elected during the BCCI’s annual general meeting at the Hilton Barbados Resort, president Tracey Shuffler suggested the Freundel Stuart administration take a second look at taxes on the productive sector.
“Since foreign exchange will always be the foundation to maintain the strength of our foreign currency then, by necessity, tourism, international business and export based manufacturing, must be given special attention,” she said.
“Taxation of these industries must be reviewed to remain a revenue earner for Government but without being burdensome to owners and operators in these industries.”
However, the new BCCI leader put her organisation’s full support behind maintaining the Value Added Tax (VAT).
“While the debate on the effectiveness of the Value Added Tax continues, it remains the broadest based, most fairly applied tax available to Caribbean and other governments,” she said.
“The vast majority of the business community in this country understands and is fully compliant with the application of this tax,” added Shuffler, who is the deputy general manager in the import, distribution and marketing division at Goddard Enterprises Limited (GEL).
The business leader stated that in “the few cases” where the VAT’s application was either unknowingly or “purposely” compounded, “we trust the abilities of Barbados’ VAT auditors to investigate and correct any such irregularities.”
Addressing the business leaders, who included Trinidad & Tobago’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Vasant Bharath, Shuffler reiterated the call for more timely VAT refunds and goods and services payments to the private sector.
She welcomed Government’s cooperation in resolving the most urgent cases brought to its attention.
“This will ensure cash flows are not fatally constricted,” Shuffler reasoned.
She also identified three areas on which her main vision would be centred in the coming year. They are: growth through export based business development, strengthening the focus on renewable energy to conserve foreign exchange and improving national competiveness.
“Arguably our toughest battle will continue to be finding sustainable paths for growth in this economy,” declared the chamber head.
Noting that this is not the time for a small, relatively open economy to be offering an “undifferentiated” suite of export-based goods and services, Shuffler added: “We have to be able to offer clear competitive advantages and this has to be the focus of both Government and the private sector. Finding ways of creating competitive advantages even when we find ourselves at a distinct disadvantage is the basis for the challenges that we face.”
In her view, value added manufacturing with a strong export drive was critical to growth of the economy.