With Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler due to present the National Budget in less than a month’s time, a Government Minister is making it clear where he stands on the whole issue of increased taxes.
Stating that his constituents in St James South were already crying out for relief, Donville Inniss said: “I am not interested in any discussions about additional taxes, whatsoever”.
“My constituents, who are predominantly middle income [earners], continue to be under immense pressure and they blame it on Government and taxes,” the Minister of Commerce and Industry told Barbados TODAY.
He suggested strongly that the focus of the June 15 budget should not be on introducing any new taxes, but rather widening the current tax net as a means of raising more revenue.
“. . . so that my middle class constituents in particular have their burdens shared with a larger group in this society,” he reasoned.
“People keep talking about the poor man, the poor man, but when you are a middle income earner, you are paying what you are considering to be quite a bit of your income in taxes,” the outspoken Inniss pointed out.
“. . . . You see it going towards providing subsidized housing, free this and free that for other groups in society, [and] you can’t help but feel a little agitated and concerned.”
However, the St James South MP, who was speaking on the sidelines of a political meeting in his area on Sunday, said even though the majority of his constituents did not have a fundamental problem with paying taxes, “they were concerned about a deterioration in public services, and rightly so.
“These are matters that we as politicians can’t bury our heads in sand about. We have simply to engage. There is nothing to fear,” the Minister of Industry and Commerce said.
“I think Barbadians are smart, they are respectful, and they will engage you in a very constructive manner,” Inniss said.
However, he noted that while the country could not move away with taxes altogether, the Government had a responsibility to explain how taxpayers’ dollars were spent, and to ensure the provision of adequate social services.
“I think what we have to do as a State is to continue to enlighten people as to what it is costing to provide the services that the State is offering,” Inniss told Barbados TODAY so that there is a better understanding on that hand.
“If there is one failing of the Government, it is that we have not been very effective, consistent and persistent in our communication,” he admitted.
He also stressed that the Government must continue efforts to reduce its expenditure.
Next month’s presentation by Sinckler comes against the backdrop of a recently concluded International Monetary Fund Article 1V Consultation on the island.
At the end of the process, the IMF called on the ruling Democratic Labour Party administration to press ahead with needed economic reforms and to reduce its high public sector wage bill, which is said to be in the region of a billion Barbados dollars.
So far Sinckler has assured that Government would be sticking to its fiscal consolidation plan.
While not promising any ease in taxes in the upcoming Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, the Minister of Finance is yet to say definitively whether there would be any additional belt-tightening measures.