Opposition Leader Mia Mottley told Parliament Tuesday the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was never in favour of merging the Customs & Excise Department into any umbrella revenue collections agency.
Speaking during debate on the Revenue Authority Amendment Bill (2017), Mottley said it was never envisaged by the former administration that customs would be integrated into the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA).
“I want to repeat today, for the absolute avoidance of doubt, that a Barbados Labour Party Government will not be transferring customs officers to the Barbados Revenue Authority because we believe that customs officers are border security officials first and foremost,” she said to applause from her colleagues on the Opposition benches.
“That, therefore, will remove that which has become the biggest contributor to a slowdown at both the airport and the seaport, but it is further compounded by the fact that customs has more actors than Hollywood,” Mottley added.
According to her, there was no security of tenure within the customs department, given the number of acting positions there.
“That leads us to the incapacity of the country to be able to get things done; people to get their goods out of the port. And what do we want to do? To go and add it to a Barbados Revenue Authority where people are asking in the tens and dozens and scores to go back to central Government? That’s what’s happening. After two years people who have been seconded there are asking to revert to central Government,” she charged.
Mottley’s comments came on the heels of a statement by Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss on the weekend that the time had come to settle the merger of customs into BRA.
Inniss told a general meeting of the Customs Brokers and Clerks Association that the decision was taken to join the two Government entities in a bid to improve efficiency in terms of the island’s revenue collection system.
The Freundel Stuart administration has been working towards the amalgamation of the two bodies, but the process was stalled after customs Officers refused to sign option forms.
However, Inniss told the Lower House Tuesday afternoon that BRA was “here to stay”.
“Whether we like it or not it is here to stay. It was the brainchild of the Barbados Labour Party under the Honourable Member for St Peter [former Prime Minister Owen Arthur], ably supported by all of them who currently sit in Parliament on the Opposition benches.
“The Democratic Labour Party administration has given life to it and I don’t think we need to beat up on it too much,” he added.