The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) today suggested that Government was “eight months late” in offering a coping subsidy to public servants, following the announcement by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler back in May of a $542 million austerity Budget.
Among the controversial measures unveiled was a massive hike in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which moved from two per cent to ten per cent of the customs value of locally manufactured as well as imported goods.
In view of the tax, trade unions have been demanding some form of “coping subsidy” to assist their members to deal with their current economic hardships, with the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) reporting last Friday that the Freundel Stuart administration had finally budged and had placed an offer on the table.
Responding to the development, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley said while she was not aware of the amount Government was offering public servants, she was not in the least impressed by the gesture.
“I am not aware of what has been agreed to but suffice it to say when the Government introduced the National Social Responsibility Levy the Opposition called for a cost of living allowance. The NUPW has called it a coping subsidy, but either way it is eight months late and ought to have been received long ago because Barbadians have been reeling under the pressure as a result of increased cost of living, as a result of an unfair and discriminatory tax.
“To the extent that the public service could be shielded by an allowance in the absence of a wage increase for nine years is really long overdue,” Mottley added.
She argued that the NSRL should be repealed altogether, as persons were still unclear how the levy should be applied. In fact, she said as it stands, the dreaded tax could be applied to the same items more than once, increasing cost of living even more.
“The NSRL may find itself applied to the same good more than once as persons are unable to agree how and where it should be applied. This is a bad tax because taxes must be fair and transparent,” the Opposition Leader insisted.