The Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) has joined the growing list of voices objecting to the controversial ten per cent National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals.
The increase from two per cent when the tax was introduced last September, is due to take effect from July 1, with Barbadians worried about its impact on their pockets.
BAM President Chetwyn Stewart issued a statement Tuesday calling on Sinckler to rescind the tax on the masqueraders, warning that otherwise it would put the Crop Over festival in danger.
BAM, which last month secured a $50,000 increase in subventions from Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, argued that the massive increase in the levy had caught masqueraders off guard, and it would be difficult to meet the expected increases in the prices of supplies.
“The tax has caught bands in the middle of the road, in the headlights, and bands will be faced by a massive increase in tax without being able, unlike other sectors, to raise their prices to offset the increases,” said Stewart, the former PowerX4 front man.
“The tax will not only affect the importation of all costume inputs, but almost every aspect of producing a band – drinks, food – because almost everything is imported,” he added.
The BAM president stressed that the local bands had been pushed to the edge with the Cultural Industries Development Act failing to provide any sort of relief or tax concessions.
“There has been little progress in gaining any benefit from the Cultural Industries Act,” said Stewart, who accused Sinckler of trying to cripple Crop Over.
“It is unbelievable that the Government would want to exert unnecessary pressure on bands and festival and this stage,” the BAM president said, adding: “Some urgent action is necessary now on this tax, the NSRL, and the Cultural Industries Act so that bands can deliver the type of festival on which so many depend.”
Meanwhile, Lashley said BAM’s outrage came as no surprise because the NSRL, along with a two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions also announced in the Budget, would affect the livelihoods of every Barbadian.
However, regarding the Cultural Industries Development Act, Lashley said the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Finance were seeking to rectify the problem.
“In terms of the processing aspect . . . we have had a few undue delays and in my discussions certainly with the Minister of Finance we are making sure that we can get past those delays. Much of it has to do with some red tape in the system, but once those have been sorted those band leaders who are approved will be able to obtain the benefit under the Cultural Industries Development Act,” Lashley said.