Political leader of the fledgling United Progressive Party (UPP) Lynette Eastmond has described the 2017 Budget as one void of measures to attain the economic growth the country so desperately needs.
In fact, she argued that apart from increasing Barbados’ tax burden, the proposals offered by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler Tuesday present nothing else.
“He spoke about the reduction of the deficit and basically this is going to be done through increases in taxes and selling off taxpayers’ assets. Now that is unsustainable. The sale of any one of Government’s assets is going to be a one-off transaction. It does not speak to continued growth in the economy or focusing on the areas that would really ensure that Barbados is able to continue to service its debt or pay for the goods and services that it needs,” she argued during a post-Budget debate on local radio last night.
A former Director of International Business in the Ministry of Economic Development under an Owen Arthur administration, Eastmond added that nowhere in the Budget did Sinckler show how he would regain the business lost in the all-important international business sector which has the potential to improve Barbados’ economic fortunes.
She said the country has lost about $1.4 billion in that sector over the past seven years, and more must be done to shore it up.
The UPP leader recalled that when the sector came under threat during her tenure as Director of International Business, the Arthur administration did not simply amend legislation but acted proactively. And she suggested that the Freundel Stuart administration should do the same.
“It required that we got on a plane, and sometimes I used to be on a plane every week to deal with that, to deal with saving Barbados $300 million, and we succeeded in doing it,” she said.
“But at the moment . . . the Minister of Finance is saying that they had to reduce the tax rate on the international business sector in order to ensure that none of the companies left. However, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any of those entities stayed because they lowered the tax rate. So, what actually happened is that the tax rate was lowered, some companies left and therefore that is why we end up now only earning $90 million in that sector.”
Eastmond insisted that what was needed was a fresh approach to the financial services sector.
“We are training young people in technology. We have individuals who have gone abroad and have developed skills in these areas and have contacts all over the world who can bring that kind of business to Barbados. These people are doing it on their own, but the Government seems completely clueless as to how to engage these individuals and to engage in this particular sector that can bring significant growth to Barbados,” the former Senator contended.