Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is essentially telling the private sector to blame itself for any confusion it had about how his recent budgetary measures – including the contentious National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) and two per cent tax on foreign exchange – would be implemented.
Following his announcement of the belt-tightening measures at the end of May, the Barbados Private Sector Association, the Barbados International Business Association, the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association and the Barbados Bankers’ Association had called for clarity on the $542 million austerity package, in terms of how it would be applied.
However, delivering the weekly Astor B Watts lunchtime lecture at the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) George Street, St Michael headquarters on Friday, Sinckler said the private sector had created its own confusion because the taxes were increased and not lowered.
“If you say the VAT [Value Added Tax] gone back to 15 per cent tomorrow nobody don’t have misunderstanding about what that means, but if I say it going from 17.5 [per cent] to 20 [per cent] they will say, ‘it is not clear, I ain’t sure, what that mean, how it work?’
“So they create the confusion in their heads, run to the press with it, and of course the press loves that. They put it on the front page and say, ‘oh Sinckler don’t know what he doing, he don’t think through this and he don’t think through that’, to create the confusion, not because they are unclear in their minds – although some of them are to be honest because some of them don’t read and some of them are politically mischievous – but they create that [confusion] because they want the tax rolled back,” he said.
Pointing out that the NSRL was in place since last year, he said “guidance notes” had been issued since then “to business people [and] there wasn’t [any] confusion” to speak of.
“All we did was to increase the rate from two to ten and now they ain’t got no clarity. They don’t know how it is going to work, if it on this, if it on that, we ain’t sure who go to pay,” said a seemingly annoyed Sinckler.
However, immediately following his announcement last year, stakeholders had demanded a review of the NSRL after it proved to be a major headache, especially for manufacturers.
But while standing firmly by his austerity Budget of May 30th, he said the monies collected would be used to fund health care, education, social welfare, sanitation services and water and other social services.
“The position of the Democratic Labour Party is very clear, we are going to defend this. Even if it means taking a little bit more out of your pocket to do this. It is better to do this than to cut this out, diminish this to a ridiculous level and cause social chaos and deviance and disruption in this society,” he said.
The embattled Minister of Finance also made it clear that he would not be bullied, “knocked down” or lose focus on account of any detractors.
“We have done enough to hold our heads high and not to be brow-beaten and bullied by those in the society who believe they have a fundamental entitlement to Government,” said Sinckler in his very cutting presentation, in which he also accused the media of not reporting on some issues created by the previous Barbados Labour Party administration.