Government has failed by its own economic yardstick and remains on the wrong course, warned St James Central MP Kerrie Symmonds as he heaped criticism on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
Leading off the post-lunch session of Parliament this afternoon, he immediately zeroed in on the country’s high debt woes, saying Government’s homegrown strategy had obviously flopped.
“According to the revised Medium Term Fiscal Strategy we should today be coming to Parliament and hearing that the deficit has been so managed that it has come down to one per cent of GDP [Gross Domestic Product].
“The reality is Sir, is that whether you are guided by the cash-based accounting system or the accrual-based accounting process . . . against the Government’s own medium term fiscal strategy there has been a failure,” he told Parliament.
The outspoken Opposition MP also attacked the Government’s tax policy, saying while the former Owen Arthur administration had significantly reduced the income tax burden on ordinary Barbadians and had chosen to rely on corporation tax for Government revenue, the Freundel Stuart administration had reversed the policy, making working class Barbadians pay a high price.
“In 2008 when we left office, corporation taxes were at 500 million dollars – more than half of a billion. Personal Income Tax stopped being the major source of revenue and fell to just under 300 million dollars,” he noted. However, he said by the end of 2015, the situation was reversed with corporation taxes only accounting for $78 million.
“What has happened is that we have returned to the bad, old days . . . with great consequences to the ordinary, average man in your constituency and mine. The working class is paying the price from an economy that is hemorrhaging,” Symmonds charged.
He said the negative impact was being reflected in the dramatic fall off in the rate of savings from eight per cent in 2011 to point one of a per cent by the end of 2015.
“The reality is that the statistics reveal a startling tragedy is taking place . . . ordinary workers are paying the price for a failed or failing economic policy of Government and that price is being paid out of the average worker’s pocket.”
Symmonds also lamented that the country’s commerce was being suppressed, citing the tedious process for securing various licences or certificates from Government departments.
He said this was reflected in Barbados’s “catastrophic decline” in the World Bank’s Doing Business, 2016 Report.
“In 2012 Barbados was positioned at number 87 out of 189, in 2013 we were at 88, 2014 we had fallen to 103, [in] 2015 we were at 106 and now, we are at 119,” he reported, saying it was clear evidence that Barbados was underperforming when compared to regional neighbours – Jamaica, which moved to 64, St Lucia to 67 and Trinidad to 88.
“The reality is that we [Barbados] cannot be locked to the race to the bottom,” he warned.