Owner of A1 Supermarkets Andrew Bynoe has described the Government’s decision to remove some items from the so-called basket of basic goods as a backward step.
Delivering the 2015 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals in Parliament yesterday Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced that effective September 1, there will be a new and smaller basket of food items to which full exemption from the standard 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) will be applied.
There are currently over 400 items classified in the basket of basic goods, including frozen spare ribs, tenderloin, ham shoulders, snapper and sea trout.
However, addressing the post-Budget breakfast session of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning, Bynoe criticized the move, saying it was simply wrong.
“I want to look exclusively at the basket of goods in which now there are a number of items that will [attract] VAT. It seems to me the thinking is the wrong thinking, it is a little backward,” said Bynoe.
“I listened to the Minister [of Finance] and he spoke of T-bone steak being in that basket, but what is wrong, are you telling me that the poor people must not want to eat T-bone steak? This is my concern with the Budget. This is my concern with so much that happens within the administrative arm of Government. The poor people are not encouraged to aspire. To me this is the wrong message with imposing VAT on that group of items,” contended Bynoe.
The supermarket owner suggested the island was losing out on billions of dollars in investment due to the lack of ability of the Government to attract investment.
“This economy cannot grow unless there is investment and particularly outside investment. Over the years I have not seen anything in budgets that is geared towards attraction of investment in this country.
“The minister spoke of one billion dollars within the tourism sector, but he spoke of this 12 months ago, he spoke of this 18 months ago. Why is it we are still speaking of this one point something billion? Does anybody know of the billions that have been turned away from this country because we do not have the right stimulus to get people investing in this country?” asked Bynoe.