Some of Government’s church-supported social programmes may fall victim to the Municipal Solid Waste Tax.
President of the Barbados Evangelical Association (BEA) Dr Nigel Taylor told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that some churches will struggle to pay the levy, which could put them out of pocket to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
The BEA has called an emergency general meeting for Thursday night at the Jackson Church of God to consider the implications of paying the tax and cutting back on programmes it operates on behalf of Government.
“In the past, we would have had churches that would have been doing yeoman service in terms of assisting Government with the social programmes. You may not know this, but we have a host of churches which [do] a lot of community work, like meals programmes,” Dr Taylor said.
“If you followed market prices today, you are going to find out that . . . financing of these programmes are done by the same people in the local congregations. So the churches will have to decide one of two things: either we modify the programme, whatever the programme is, and look at the tax, or appeal to the sensitivity of the Minister [of Finance Chris Sinckler].”
The BEA head said he was certain each denomination would have slightly varied positions on the matter.
“You ever thought how the Anglicans would fare in this or the Roman Catholics or other groups. I have extended the invitation to all the ministers. This is not really a BEA thing. Somebody has to sponsor it, somebody has to give leadership to it and the BEA executive has created the forum where people could come and talk. But not only talk, we need to look to see how we can engage this whole process,” he noted.
Dr Taylor said that the association’s executive recently met in emergency session and recognised that churches were being asked to pay significant sums based on their tax invoices.
“Persons have been saying we have [to look for] in the vicinity of thousands of dollars. Obviously some now still have to tabulate. . . You would find this to be true in [denominations] like those that have like 30 something churches because I suspect that because they are under the denominational umbrella they are not going to be paying church by church, I suspect they are going to be paying in terms of a denomination. You will hear them mention something like, ‘we have to pay thousands of dollars now,’” Dr Taylor told this newspaper.
“Without fear of contradiction, I think that some of them were caught off guard as to the numbers, the collective figure and they would have been ill-prepared or unprepared for the payment of such. However you look at it, churches would not have been prepared for anything like this,” the church leader declared.
Dr Taylor argued that when one considered the large properties of some churches, the faith-based community will be contributing a heavy sum to the Treasury.
He said the church must deal with this issue as a collective body as it examines not only the challenges, but the possible solutions.
“We must move pass idealism into realism. This is a time for the church to be represented on an issue as critical and impacting as this current national topic,” insisted the head of the BEA, which represents more than 30 denominations and agencies with a membership of close to 50,000 people.
Following a public outcry, Government again extended the deadline to start paying the Municipal Solid Waste Tax from July 28 to December 31, and excluded pensioners whose properties have an improved value of $190,000 or less from having to pay.
Owners of agricultural lands have also received some relief with their tax being reduced by a half.
Meantime, outspoken cleric Charles Morris is telling Government not to move ahead with the implementation of the tax.
He said the revenue-generating measure will put a strain on many people despite the adjustments that were made.
“There are some pensioners who own property who will not be able to pay,” reverend Morris said.
“To me it is absurd, it is ludicrous and my question is how much more will they tax Barbadians. I have to go back to the words that Moses said to the Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go’. Right now the people are in bondage from a number of things. The people of Barbados are suffering. The more you tax the people, the more you are going to reduce economic activity.”