There are many families in Barbados who are living pay-cheque to pay-cheque and are vulnerable to major unplanned expenses. Others cannot pay all of their mortgage payments, utility bills, and food expenses and must prioritize payments. Some are cutting back on food, and are partially dependent on the kindness of family, neighbours, or the Church.
Many who are living on the boundaries of poverty will never bring themselves to stand outside of the Welfare department. They will endure patiently while praying to God for His provision. However, not all have this faith or patience. Some mothers are known to prostitute themselves and/or their children in order to survive. This then becomes a root cause of specific problems in our schools, which should concern us all.
What would a Solutions Barbados administration do to significantly reduce the cost of living in Barbados? What would we do so that some mothers would not feel compelled to pursue such desperate measures? To provide immediate relief, every household will receive a basic amount of water at no charge. Therefore, the genuine poor (whether working or not) can survive without embarrassment, having to beg, or having to engage in transactional sex.
To avoid paying a water bill, the family would need to use the limited amount of free water very efficiently. The water rates above this basic amount will be increased to compensate for the free amount.
A similar initiative would be pursued with electricity where a free basic amount will be provided to each household, with the rates above this minimum being increased to compensate for the free amount. Like with the water, the family would need to use the limited amount of free electricity for important uses only.
With utilities addressed, the next important survival item is food. For immediate relief, all import taxes will be removed from healthy foods to make them more affordable. To address future needs, property taxes will be significantly reduced if one large ‘fruit’ tree (e.g. breadfruit or mango) is planted and maintained on every 500 sq ft of available land. Therefore, in a few years, it is expected that no-one living in Barbados could claim to be hungry.
The next issue is the increasing burden of indirect taxes to pay for the ever increasing health care and criminal justice costs. The costs of national health care are spiralling out of control, mostly due to the costs of treating an increasing number of persons who choose unhealthy behaviours.
To allow such persons to pre-pay for their health care, a health tax will be applied to all imported and locally manufactured high-salt, high-sugar, high-fat, and high-alcohol products.
To similarly remove the criminal justice costs from burdening middle class families, all offences will attract fines of ten times the value of the offence. Prison will be reserved for violent offenders, or those who refuse to pay their fines. Fines can be paid on instalments. If the offender is unemployed, then they can be assigned to maintain parts of Barbados’ infrastructure. If they simply will not report to work or are always very late, then they can reside at Dodds and arrive on-time.
The last issue that we will consider here can be called a ‘Peter pays for Paul’ tax. Successful businesses can legally avoid paying any corporate taxes for decades, and since Government needs revenues, middle class families are normally called on to pay the taxes that such businesses legally avoid paying. To remove this unfair burden, the corporate tax rate will be applied to gross revenues rather than to net profits.
All of Solutions Barbados’ initiatives to lower the cost of living for families have been published on Solutions Barbados.com for the past two years. They are still relevant.
(Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at [email protected])