Barbadians are being warned that should the country fall victim to a major natural disaster such as the hurricanes that have devastated some Caribbean neighbours over the past two weeks, few international agencies would come to the island’s aid.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler this morning said Barbados was being “punished” for being successful, as it no longer qualified for assistance for disaster relief from some international agencies because it was considered a middle-income country.
This was why, he said, Barbadians had a lot to be thankful for, not because God is a Bajan, but because they did not have to suffer the “sheer misery” other countries were experiencing as a result of the storms.
Sinckler sought to link the country’s success to taxation, telling the presentation ceremony of the Caribbean Organization of Tax Administrators 2017 essay competition at Ellerslie Secondary School that it was by paying taxes that Barbadians helped to develop the country.
“We sometimes can get punished . . . for our success, because the better off you are and the more successful you are the less likely people are to give you development aid. So it comes all back down to us Barbadians contributing to the development of our country through the taxes we pay,” he said.
“Just imagine the sheer misery that people are in at this moment in other countries, and we have a lot to be thankful for, not because God is a Barbadian . . . but we have to be thankful that we are in a position where today we have not had to deal with that, but who knows whose turn is next? And so we have to ensure that whatever we have that we protect it and that we enjoy it so that people who come after us – your children [and] my children – can enjoy the fruits of our labour as we go forth,” said Sinckler.
16-year-old Aliah Hazzard of Ellerslie Secondary School placed third in the regional essay competition, after capturing the top spot locally. The aspiring pastry chef started her essay with what she said was a rhetorical question on whether the island could take any more taxes or if it was not already taxed to the limit.
Since announcing an increase in taxes as part of a $542 million austerity package at the end of May this year, Sinckler has come under increasing pressure from opposition parties, the business community as well as ordinary residents, who all complain that the population simply could not handle anymore taxes.
Besides an increase in the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy from two per cent to ten per cent, Sinckler had announced an increase in the excise duties on fuel as well as a new two per cent tax on all foreign exchange transactions.
However, while agreeing today that the country could not manage any more taxes, a noticeably slimmer Sinckler suggested that existing ones were necessary in order to provide some services, including that of sanitation and public transportation, which is provided free of charge to students.
“Nobody likes to pay taxes. I don’t like to pay taxes myself, but I have to pay them because it is important for the development of the country. If you work for $100 you would like to take home $100,” he said.
“Unfortunately life is not, as you know, that quite simple. There are many things that we have to do in Barbados including providing education and health care,” he added, while noting that those two areas alone accounted for about $1 billion of the national budget.
He argued that even if Government were to borrow to meet its obligations those monies would have to be repaid either from donations and the selling of assets, both of which were scarce, or “by raising revenues from taxes”.
Sinckler said in order for Government to reduce the current level of taxation all Barbadians had to play a role.
“We need to be more productive as a country. We need to spend less time talking and more time doing. We need to be more conscientious. We need to protect our environment. We need to ensure that those things which are provided for us like this infrastructure here [Ellerslie school], that it is kept in good keep, so that the Government does not have to continue spending money on it when you destroy this and destroy that, because if Government then has to find more money to replace these things then they have to come and ask you for more taxes to do it,” the minister warned.