It has started. The effects of the dreaded National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) has begun. Although I can’t say that July 1 was the starting date for price increases. About two weeks after the budget measure to increase the NSRL had passed, I went to the supermarket to buy some dog chow.
Trying to be a responsible citizen, and to buy local, I had switched from the imported dog chow and had started buying the locally made Price Saver adult dog chow for $49.99. Since my dogs never missed a beat in their eating after coming off the imported chow, I was very happy.
However, some of that happiness dissipated when I got to the check out and discovered that the chow was raised to about $57 and the NSRL had not even come on stream yet. That was a 14 per cent increase and I have no idea on what basis the price was raised. I was not alone in my surprise.
The next week, I was at another branch of the supermarket and a man in front of me in the line had the same dog chow in his cart and seemed to have come into the supermarket with just over $50, expecting to pay the same price of $49.99. I had to tell him that the price jumped me too, and to commiserate, I gave him the couple of dollars he needed to pay.
That is just one item. I see that our local juices have increased in price as well. And I hear people crying out for a huge jump in the price of detergent. I don’t want to be a prophet of gloom but this is the tip of the iceberg. What is also quite disturbing is that a lot of people in the manufacturing sector are unsure about how and where to apply the levy.
Also of concern is those companies who have won contracts to do work or provide products at a pre-ten per cent NRSL price, which are then faced with finding that their inputs have increased significantly and they are unable to pass on the cost to their clients since they have fixed price contracts. I can’t think of any clients who would be so gracious as to agree to pay more than the agreed fee because the government has sprung a significant increase in the levy on businesses.
Surely there should be an allowable deduction in the computation of corporation tax next year called “Loss on increase of NSRL”. So what are our options? It is apparent that we can march as much as we like and protest as much as we like but the government is not budging, except for concessions made to certain sectors. I have a friend who was so incensed by some of the items that are exempted from VAT and NSRL that he wrote a letter to one of the newspapers, stating that the Government had a lack of understanding of people’s basic needs.
He figured that was the only way he could explain the absence from the VAT-free list (and NSRL-free list) of toilet paper, tooth-paste, tooth brushes, bath soap, deodorant, feminine products, shampoo, Vaseline and even dish washing liquid. While the VAT-free list (and NSRL-free list) included frozen salmon, smoked salmon, tinned salmon, herring, pollock, haddock, mushrooms, truffles, almonds, celery, artichokes and spinach.
We have to agree that some of these decisions pass all understanding and if we are going to be stuck with them, we need to find ways to continue to live as best as we can. One colleague of mine said that he will now begin to shop at the market and buy his vegetables etc. from vendors so that he doesn’t have to pay the VAT or NSRL that he would if he bought them from the supermarket. Sounds like a plan to me.
Added to that, I would suggest that we begin to grow our own food again and more deliberately. Even if you don’t have much space in your backyard, there is still the ability to create a tyre garden that was very popular years ago. That gives not only the ability to grow vegetables and herbs in a small space, but helps to reduce the number of tyres that could possibly be making their way into our landfill, or are stacked up by tyre repair shops.
The foreign exchange fee (FXF) is now live on most foreign currency transactions except those via credit and debit cards, which start on September 1. Already people with children studying overseas are making sure that they pay fees before September 1. Needless to say, there will also be a vibrant US dollar trade this summer when family and friends come in for Crop Over. I’m sure that the commercial banks won’t be changing any dollars, or pounds as they will be snatched up by Bajans eager to avoid the two per cent FXF.
All of these measures will no doubt make us more aware of Plato’s quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, than ever. Perhaps the one positive thing that this government will go down in history for, will be causing us as a people to become more inventive. For that we should thank them.
Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016) and the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme. Email: [email protected]; Website www.donnaevery.comwww.facebook.com/DonnaEvery1