One of my favourite scriptures is “Before they call, I will answer and while they are speaking, I will hear.”
Well, the words were scarcely out of my mouth last week (out of my computer really), wishing for another option for a cellphone provider, when I heard that there is a new one on the horizon and about to launch.
What gives me even greater expectation of this company is the fact that I have discovered they are asking potential customers how they can best serve them. They are prepared to listen.
Listening is very important in business, in government and, in fact, in all of life. This is why I believe the Government should have listened to advice from the Bar Association cautioning them not to pass the legislation stating that anyone selling property, must have a Tax Clearance Certificate from the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) to show that they have no Excise Tax, Income tax, Land tax or Value Added Tax outstanding.
I can understand that they were hurrying this legislation in an attempt to recoup revenues owed to Government, but now we are seeing the effect of hurrying through legislation without putting the necessary systems in place to ensure its smooth running.
I find it quite telling that this legislation has been passed so quickly and proclaimed, while the Prevention of Corruption Act 2010, which has been passed by both the House of Assembly and the Senate, seems to have stalled at the stage of proclamation. I’m not a lawyer, but I understand that for a law to be effected, it not only has to be passed by both houses but then it must be proclaimed by the Governor General. I see this as an irrelevant step. If both houses approve it, surely proclamation should follow automatically.
It is also somewhat ironic that pressure is being put on everyone doing property transactions in order to catch those delinquent persons who owe taxes of one form or another, while the culprits listed in the Auditor General’s report who owe thousands and, in some cases, millions of dollars to Government, seem to be getting off scot free.
According to the Auditor General’s report for 2015, “loans from Government to Individuals and Agencies were recorded as $397,946,64. This category of receivables consists of loans advanced to various entities, including car loans to Parliamentarians, public officers, Registering Officers and loans to state agencies.”
Some of this money was made to agencies like Barbados Tourism Investment Inc in the amount of $141,500,000. This amount had been reduced to $97,885,949 in July 2011 but, according to the said 2015 report, “The Audit Office cannot verify the accuracy of this amount, since no adequate information was made available pertaining to these transactions.”
I could go on, but I’m beginning to feel sick, as I do, whenever I read this report. Anyway, I digress. So now the banks and financial institutions have called a halt on all property transactions until there is clarity on the Tax Clearance Certificate and the Opposition Leader is asking the Government to repeal the legislation. Will the Government admit to not listening to the Bar Association and the Opposition and repeal the legislation? Or will pride come before country?
This really reminds me of a scene from my novel The High Road in which the Government (in the book) was faced with the possible failure of a project to transform the nation because it was not supported by the Opposition and its followers. In an effort to save the project and ultimately the nation, they had to decide if to depoliticize it and let a non-partisan group run with it or risk its failure. It came down to pride of owning the project vs putting the nation first.
In the end, the Government in the book chose what was best for the nation. I hope this Government does the same and will not let pride dictate its actions. I can imagine how pressured the staff of the BRA must be to suddenly have to deal with these compliance requests, in addition to their regular workload. What it does, is add an additional layer of bureaucracy to an already burdened system.
Imagine if an investor wanted to come into Barbados to buy a property, either as a residence or for commercial use, and has to endure the time for compliance of the seller to be issued, then the usual legal holdup, possibly followed by Town Planning’s part in the whole fiasco. Why would the said investor want to do business in Barbados?
What is really required is proper governance in the various departments in the first place. If, for instance, someone owes years of land taxes, it should not only come to the fore when they are ready to sell their land. There must be a system in place to enforce the collection of the outstanding taxes.
But then I suppose it comes down having the necessary manpower to chase up the delinquent tax payers and then go through the legal procedures to reclaim the outstanding taxes. Surely hiring a few people to do that should more than pay their salaries.
I’m trying to see and speak positively, but I can’t help but feel that all of this is just a symptom that we have lost our way in Barbados. Not just in managing the various government departments, and essentially the whole country, but in managing even ourselves, if we look at what is reported in the media.
The good news is “before we call, he answers”. But we have to call.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016) and is the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme. Contact her at donnadonnaevery.com; Website www.donnaevery.com; www.facebook.com/DonnaEvery1)