St James South incumbent Donville Inniss has launched a broadside against the leader of the fledgling United Progressive Party (UPP).
Slamming what he called “a cheap political joke” after she attempted to blame him for the recent 400 per cent increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), Inniss said Lynnette Eastmond had lost all sense of reason.
Addressing a UPP meeting in Haynesville, St James earlier this week to introduce Cristal Austin as her party’s candidate for the St James South constituency, Eastmond said Inniss, who is the current incumbent for the area, had to shoulder the blame for one of the country’s most dreaded taxes.
In fact, she charged that since Inniss was the minister responsible for commerce, small business, manufacturing and international business and those sectors were not producing, he would have to shoulder the blame for the burdensome increase in the NSRL, which was hiked from two per cent to ten per cent on July 1.
In response, Inniss said: “My dear friend Lynette Eastmond is a politician who hitherto exhibited quite a bit of reason and common sense, but in her quest to get elected, I think this is probably her fourth attempt, she seems to have lost her ability to reason.”
In his own defence, he said Eastmond knew full well that when she was still an active member of Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) back in 2010/2011, the Cabinet of Barbados had approved a reduction of the tax on some international business entities in response to changes to the Canadian tax system.
With that decision, Inniss said there was an immediate decline in the amount of taxes collected by the state from the international business sector.
“It was an act we took back then to safeguard the industry and we knew full well that it would result in a falloff in taxes,” Inniss explained, while making it clear that “a reduction in tax take in the international business sector cannot be attributed to me.
“I was not the minister, but I did support the measure as a member of the Government,” he told Barbados TODAY, while pointing out that the number of licensed entities operating in the international business sector had increased by nearly 13 per cent last year, compared to 2015.
The Minister also pointed out that there were a number of unlicensed entities functioning as international businesses, which suggested that the number of operators was even greater, with the sector currently making a $900 million contribution to the economy.
“Eastmond knows full well, as someone who loitered in the Ministry of International Business as the minister a few years ago, that you cannot measure the contribution of the business sector purely on the basis of the tax take,” he said in taking a further jab at the UPP leader.
“The corporation tax take is not the only yardstick
used to measure the contribution of the international business sector to the economy,” he insisted, adding that “I certainly take what Eastmond said in Haynesville as an indication of what the upcoming elections would be like – full of lies, grand talk and big promises, but void of substance”.
The St James South incumbent, who is also under challenge from the BLP’s Sandra Husbands in the western constituency, also sought to make it clear that he had at no time sought to stoutly defend the recent hike in the NSRL.
However, he said it was clear from the time the announcement was made by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler on May 30, that the tax would lead to price increases.
“[Therefore], I do not understand why people are now saying that there have been increases in the cost of goods and services when the measure was designed to lead to an increase in goods and services,” he said.