Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss has labelled the private sector here as “ungrateful”, complaining it was supporting the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) although the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration had done much for the development of the business community.
Inniss told a DLP meeting last night on the Esplanade on Bay Street – at which the incumbent presented its candidates for the May 24 general election – the Freundel Stuart administration, through the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, provided nearly $30 million in subsidies to the private sector in the last ten years.
In addition, he said, Government had “retooled industries” and established new markets for the private sector, including exploring opportunities in Panama, Cuba and parts of the Caribbean.
Yet, he said, the private sector refused to give the DLP administration any credit for what it had achieved, and was instead backing the BLP in the election campaign.
“When I see some of them out there cursing this Government and I sit back quietly and look at the amount of taxpayers’ money that they have received in their businesses, I shudder.
“When I realize the amount of them now going to Barbados Labour Party fundraising events at a $1,000 a head, I say ‘you are ungrateful because a lot of the money you are spending with them now is money that the taxpayers popped into your businesses,’” Inniss told supporters, going on to complain: “Ingratitude worse than Obeah.”
The minister gave notice of the DLP’s intention to aggressively defend its gains, stressing that, “for us, all gloves are off”.
“There is too much at stake in this country today and for the foreseeable future for us to sit back be calm,” he warned.
He conceded that the international business sector has had its challenges, including a decision by the Canadian government to expand to other countries, the tax information exchange agreement it once had exclusively with Barbados.
As a result, he said, the island has been losing $200 million in corporation taxes annually, as many of the businesses domiciled here fled to other jurisdictions which were offering lower tax rates.
“If the Barbados Labour Party was in office the same thing would have happened,” Inniss contended.
He said recovery will take years, but the sector was beginning to recover and was now generating “nearly $900 million for this economy”.
“We’ve signed more treaties and double-taxation agreements in a time when they say things are challenging than they did in the Barbados Labour Party,” Inniss said in defence of the administration.
He also said the massive loss of revenue had affected Government’s ability to support tertiary education and aspects of health care.
“We’ve had to make some adjustments, we’ve had to reset our priorities, and when I hear them talking about the fees at university etcetera that we’ve instituted they must also appreciate that is part of the adjustments and resetting of priorities that we had to do as a nation,” the minister stressed.