Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has given the Freundel Stuart administration a failing grade for its 2015/2016 Budget, describing it as torture.
In her response this evening, Mottley said the imposition of $200 million in additional taxes was coming at a time when Barbadians were not “able to accommodate any further extraction from their pockets”.
Picking apart the Budget, Mottley said it was not designed to encourage growth of the economy but to make people “suck salt” as the Government was trying to “now get blood from stone”.
Describing the Stuart administration as unfit to lead Barbados, Mottley also said there was urgent need to restructure the national debt in order for Government to have the fiscal space to provide social services, financing for education and to keep the country safe.
“There was no strategy to encourage growth, no initiatives to create new jobs, no relief for the most vulnerable among us,” she told the House of Assembly in a near four hour long presentation.
“This Government continues to punish the people of Barbados for their failure to get it right,” she added, contending it was the sixth attempt by the Stuart administration to “get it right”.
“This minister yesterday asked you to pay more to eat in Barbados
. . . more to drink milk and to drink juice. . . more to live in your own house . . . to speak on a cell phone. This minister glories yesterday in the fact that if anybody owes any back taxes, they will not be allowed to work in Barbados to pay off the back taxes in the absence of a tax certificate,” said Mottley.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader suggested that the Budget was designed to “harass” and “deal with the political humbugs” instead of putting the economy back on a growth path.
She also accused the Government of refusing to refinance its debt “and put itself on a steady footing again to get the fiscal space to trigger growth in this country”.
Mottley said debt service had increased tremendously by almost $1 billion over the last seven years.
Mottley said the foreign reserves at the end of March 2015 were $34 million less than at the end of March 2014, as she questioned why Sinckler had made the comparison instead of with the quarter ending December last year when the reserves had jumped from 14.7 weeks to 16.1 weeks of import cover.
Mottley contended the Government’s fiscal adjustment strategy was not working as the deficit was worse than it was when the 19-month belt-tightening programme was launched.
She also criticized the Government for asking persons covered under the Profession, Trade and Business Registration Act to produce a valid tax clearance certificate from the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) in order to renew their licences.
Mottley also cried shame on the Government for removing some items from the so-called basket of basic foods which were VAT-exempt.
Motley also took issue with the Central Bank, saying it had printed more money despite the 19-month programme. She also questioned the stage at which the divestment of the GEMS of Barbados hotel properties was at, noting that hoteliers were unaware but would perhaps be interested in being able to bid.