In light of the pending repeal of the Municipal Solid Waste Tax, which generated considerable controversy when it was introduced last year, Opposition spokesman on the Environment, Senator Wilfred Abrahams is asking where did the money collected go.
Abrahams said he was concerned about how this tax revenue was used because it was meant to cover waste disposal costs, but truckers and other haulage operators were now being asked to pay a tipping fee to raise money for the same purpose.
The Opposition shadow minister expressed the view that because Government was deep in debt, that revenue was being used to meet other obligations. He predicted Government’s cash crunch would lead to more job losses in the public sector.
“They said that the Government was having difficulty dealing with the commitments to SBRC [Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre] . . . and they slapped on the Solid Waste Tax, saying it was not a land tax,” Abrahams told a Barbados Labour Party branch meeting at the West Terrace Primary School over the weekend.
He added: “The Government said that the Solid Waste Tax was to raise money to pay SBRC. The Government’s debt to SBRC per year is $21 million. The Solid Waste Tax raised over $40 million. I want to know what happened to the rest of the money.”
Abrahams noted that under the authority of Minister of the Environment, Dr Denis Lowe, his political rival in Christ Church East, the tipping fee was this month implemented and the given reason was to compensate SBRC for the debt that Government owes it.
“So if you collected the whole of last year’s worth [of Solid Waste Tax], and then the equivalent of this year’s worth, what are you imposing a tipping fee on Barbadians for?” he asked.
“That means the reason you are giving for collecting revenue, or imposing taxes, is not the reason.”
He charged that the cash-strapped Government was creating new revenue sources but diverting the income to areas other than the stated purpose of the new levy.
“The Government is trying to collect money to pay the same people it took on for elections, and that is half of the problem in Barbados. Almost all of the money Government is raising through these measures is a cash grab. It is to stave off the inevitable.”
Explaining what he saw as inevitable, Abrahams spoke of Government’s commitment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year to reduce overall expenditure and increase revenue.
“It hasn’t done it. I don’t want anybody to go home, but we know it is going to happen . . . it has to happen because of the choices that the Government has made”.
He referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s outstanding debt to suppliers, money Government also owed to trading partners in tourism, and the fact that it had to service loans at a high cost.
“Out of every dollar that the Government of Barbados takes, over 60 cents is going to service our debts. We are in a hole,” Abrahams said.