Onerous and unjust!
That’s how outspoken Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies Gerry Seale today rejected the controversial Municipal Solid Waste Tax.
In a strongly worded letter to Barbados TODAY, Seale also described the levy as “the desperation tax”.
While noting that many Barbadians had been voicing concern about the tax, he also warned that it was “pushing this government towards the increasing flood waters where it’s moral right to govern is being eroded”.
The well-known cleric also suggested the tax was unrighteous, pointing out that Jesus was challenged about the rightness of paying taxes imposed by the Romans.
“Jesus’ response was, ‘pay therefore to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar, and pay to God the things that are due to God’.
He also noted that early in Caesar Nero’s rule as Emperor, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them” .
“It would not be long before this same Nero launched a vicious and bloody persecution lasting years against the Christians and earned himself a place in infamy — justly or unjustly — as the Caesar who played his fiddle while the city of Rome burned,” Seale warned.
He also took the ruling the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government to task for promising Barbadians no layoffs during the last election and reneging on that promise on assuming office.
Seale said: “We all understood the DLP to have promised in last year’s election campaign that there would be no jobs lost should they be elected to office. To allow that impression to have been created then and say now that this was not promised is disingenuous at best.
“I have been unable to understand how sending home 3,000 people at the bottom of the economic ladder was going to save Government the kinds of multiplied millions of dollars that we were supposed to be saving through this exercise,” Seale added.
The cleric contended that if the Government wants him to take it seriously it needs “to shave four or five posts of one of the largest Cabinets this country has ever endured and send into early retirement some of the proliferation of senior civil servants”.
Seale charged that sending home people at the level of day labourers might satisfy the International Monetary Fund, but “it really fails to achieve what it is touted to accomplish and increases the hardship at the level which can least endure such hardship”.
Stressing that the Municipal Solid Waste tax was a burden, Seale said: “ Now we are struggling with the ‘desperation tax’ which others more knowledgeable than me have outlined the inequality of this tax. It has also been shown by others how this tax will increase the cost of living as landlords raise their rents and the merchants increase their prices on goods and services to cover this imposed cost.
“Telling people who cannot afford to pay that they must pay and then apply for a refund is nonsensical and I am inclined to believe that the media somehow misrepresented the Minister of Finance. He couldn’t really have said that,” Seale remarked.
He said persons have already called him with requests to help them pay the levy, but pointed out that the churches collectively had to find hundreds of thousands of dollars to “render to Caesar” before they can lift a finger to help senior citizens or financially challenged members.
The Bishop said he took no comfort in the promise that the tax will be reviewed in a year’s time, recalling that the increase in the Value Added Tax to 17.5 per cent was to be reviewed years ago.
The cleric said it hurts him to watch other economies in the region and beyond showing signs of recovery, but not Barbados. He said that the country could not go on like this.