There can be no running away from the new Municipal Solid Waste Tax it would seem, nor the need for there to be exemptions, even if Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has already made clear his position that he would first need to be satisfied that persons are actually paying the tax before he could consider any relief from this rather bothersome levy.
“The legislation [Section 5 of the Municipal Solid Waste Tax Act] is clear. It says that the minister may, it didn’t say I shall [give relief],” Sinckler pointed out in an interview with Barbados TODAY last week.
And to those who may be thinking to perhaps have the Minister dragged before the law courts on this issue, you may want to think again since as he also noted it is a question of “may” and that “the court can’t make its own law and say I have to give [somebody] relief”.
Amidst the rising public furore over the tax, we have also taken note of the comments made by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on the matter.
For one, Stuart would have us all just sit back and give the tax a chance to work.
Secondly, and we feel not just coincidentally, the Prime Minister took the opportunity last week, albeit at a CARICOM summit in Antigua, to disclose to Barbadian journalists there, the findings of an International Monetary Fund tax study, which he had not even had the opportunity to discuss with his Cabinet.
But we feel Stuart, who is not known to accidentally reveal much to media or anyone for that matter, found it convenient to share the concern of the IMF experts who have asked Government to explain why on the one hand it is imposing taxation, and on the other granting exemptions.
“If you’re imposing a tax, impose the tax and get the revenue to do the things you want. But if you’re going to impose the tax and then [give] this allowance, and that exemption and that zero rating and so on, you are defeating the purpose of imposing the tax in the first place,” said Stuart in relating the findings of the IMF report.
Still the calls for exemptions are only getting louder and louder by the day and it is left to be seen who will ultimately suffer from our “unwisdom in playing taxation”.
So far, we can foretell that attention would have to be paid to the plight of at least some old age pensioners who are barely making it as it stands, as well as those whose municipal tax costs reportedly supercede those of the very humble dwellings in which they reside.
We are also coginisant that small businesses, small farmers, churches even big hotels are among those appealing for relief.
It is therefore not difficult to see why this move has been branded a “harsh one”. Indeed it is a bitter pill to swallow.
We are not going to go as far as the opposition to say repeal the tax. But what it really points to is another clear case of decision making in the absence of authentic and sensitive consultation with the people by this Government.
We appreciate the need for this administration to increase its revenue and indeed the warnings of the IMF and others for it to increase its revenue collection.
But at the end of the day, where are the citizens going to find the money to pay?
Some of these same property owners, who have been given no more than two months to pay the municipal tax, are among the 3,000 plus, who would have recently been forced on to the breadline as part of the state’s retrenchment programme and are already struggling to keep a roof above their heads.
So pray tell how are they going to find money to pay a tax? From their meagre unemployment contributions?
Even those who are still counted among the employed, will find it difficult to face up to another tax when one considers the struggle to meet recent increases in VAT, the recently added Consolidation Tax, the cut in personal allowances and other onerous measures imposed with the presentation of the last budget.
At the end of the day, it is all coming out of the very same pay pack.
We need not warn the Government that the angry chorus has started lest they would choose to ignore those who are already up in arms.
Small though the number of protestors for the moment may be, their loud agitation could be a sign of who ultimately will be the ones to pay.