Having completed restructuring of other areas of the public sector, the Freundel Stuart administration will be looking to fast track the process of amalgamating the Customs & Excise Department into the umbrella Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) this coming financial year — at least on paper.
According to the Estimates of Expenditure & Revenue for the 2016-2017 Financial Year, which were laid in Parliament this week by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, Government’s retrenchment programme, which cost the country $1.2 million in fiscal year 2014-2015, is over. In fact, no allotment has been made for lay-offs in the public service for the coming financial year, after an estimated 3,000 Government workers lost their jobs over the past two years.
However, the process of integrating Customs into BRA is due to take place in earnest, with Government proposing to slash its budget for Customs by over 80 per cent.
Compared to the $23.88 million it received in fiscal year 2015-2016, Customs is only due to receive a vote of $4.66 million for 2016-2017.
Also noteworthy is the proposed reduction in wages for Customs. The allocation has dropped significantly from $5.856 million in the 2015-2016 Estimates to $853,384.
Sinckler, who is in charge of Customs, also proposes to do away with the $74,224 which was allocated to the Department last year for professional services, as well as its $25,000 vote under the heading “structures”.
As further confirmation of Government’s intent, spending on supplies and materials for Customs is also to be slashed by almost half to $30,976, down from $60,093 last year, while Customs travel is to be reduced by just over $37,000 to reach $52,500. The budget for utilities has also been reduced to $169,062, down from $566,019, while that for rental of property drops to $6,065, down from $19,904.
Overall, Government will also look to save approximately $19 million on revenue collections, allocating $40,141,083 for this purpose, down from $59,079,554 in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Of this amount, the BRA is due to get $35.5 million, compared to $35.2 million in 2015-2016.
The move to subsume Customs under BRA has been a major source of contention between Government and the unionized workers who have vehemently opposed joining the umbrella revenue collections agency.
When contacted for comment today, General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers Roslyn Smith said she planned to issue a statement tomorrow
on the matter. She said the NUPW would also be meeting with its members in Customs.