A Government Senator has described the local business community as parasites who are only bellyaching about the recently announced budgetary measures because they are unwilling to carry their share of the economic burden.
The Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA), the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) have all predicted disastrous consequences as a result of the austerity measures presented by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in Parliament on May 30.
The three organizations have also warned of job losses and further contraction of the economy as a result of the measures, which include a whopping 500 per cent increase in the contentious National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) from two per cent to ten per cent; an increase in the excise duty on petrol and a new two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions.
However, in delivering the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) lunchtime lecture at the party’s George Street headquarters Friday, Ince, the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Finance, did not mince his words when he suggested that businesses should quit their whining and stop sponging off Government.
“I am going to give you a phrase that I use to describe the private sector of Barbados. I have been criticized for it and it doesn’t bother me one way or another. I have said it before and I will say it again and I want this written as Jepter Ince say so. The private sector of Barbados is an extension of the public service and a parasitic plant in the bosom of Government.
“Write that!” said Ince, who was responding to questions posed by Barbados TODAY about the growing anxiety among businesses about their future.
Citing several examples, Ince, who lost to the Opposition Barbados Labour Party’s Gline Clarke in St George North in the last election, accused the private sector of abdicating its leadership role in spurring economic growth and employment, forcing Government to take the helm.
It is for this reason that Ince argued that businesses must now be prepared to put up or shut up.
“Every decision to push this country forward is made by the Government of Barbados, every initiative towards economic growth and employment. And I would give you an example and I want you to write and quote me, I fear no one. We had some molasses tanks in the ports that were leaking and falling apart. The Minister of Finance and myself met with the Rum Producers Association and the private sector of this country to repair those tanks and we asked them for $5 million in contributions and that money could not be found,” Ince lamented.
He added that the $24 million price tag to repair the tanks was eventually paid solely by taxpayers.
“We gave the private sector the ploughing programme because they said they could have done it better. Within a number of years it went under and it cost the Ministry of Agriculture $10 million and six tractors to bring it back under that ministry and get it right.
“We had Sam Lord’s Castle and nobody didn’t want it, and again it was up to the Government of Barbados to bring brand name hotels to the country,” Ince said, while pointing to other areas such as renewable energy as further examples as missed opportunities by the private sector.
The Government advisor warned that things would be much worse for the private sector if the Freundel Stuart administration were to heed the business community’s advice to make cuts instead of raising revenue.
“They have no grounds for complaining. We give the private sector about $300 million in goods and services [incentives] when the year comes. They complain about cutting the deficit and making tough decisions. If Government decides to cut the goods and services to the private sector, tell me what is going to happen? They cannot stand, their balance sheets cannot take it,” he cautioned.