The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) manifesto, which was officially unveiled last night, is being described by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler as a “fudged proposal” and a recipe for “the economic meltdown of Barbados”.
“If the country wants to see what an economic meltdown is then they should vote for this plan because this will meltdown not only our economy and society but their lives as well,” Sinckler warned.
In a launch filled with pomp and flare before a massive crowd at Kingsland, Christ Church, the BLP rolled out a seven-tier plan, which hinges the country’s economic recovery on debt re-profiling. It was also revealed that a BLP Government would replace the road tax with a tax on fuel, while pushing the development of a green economy though incentives such as duty-free concessions on public service vehicles which run on renewable energy. The party also showed the math behind some of its more ambitious promises such as the restoration of free tertiary education, removal of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) and the increase of non-contributory pensions for $155 to $225 per week.
However, Sinckler told Barbados TODAY the BLP’s plan was fraught with contradictions, adding that his opponents were embarking on an ill-conceived mission to please everyone at the risk of destroying the country. The minister argued that replacing the road tax with a tax on fuel would push up the cost of doing business, therefore, raising the cost of living.
“We are now hearing of this fudged proposal to abolish the road tax and put a tax on fuel. We don’t know how that is going to work because they clearly have not thought out what they are doing. Road tax now attracts a fixed amount per weight of the vehicle and size of the engine. If you then apply a tax at a percentage rate that would be on the value of what you would spend in fuel, this means that this can go to any level,” Sinckler warned, adding he was confident the business community would share his perspective.
“It would really be interesting to hear the business community on this because this would surely increase the cost of doing business. A substantial part of commerce in Barbados is transportation. What about all those vehicles that are freighting? What about all those vehicles that are doing public transport? What about the Transport Board buses? In this day and age no business person can carry that cost, it is going to be passed on to the consumer,” Sinckler added.
Referencing BLP leader Mia Mottley’s bold declaration that she was not afraid to go the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if necessary, Sinckler contended that there was no way the IMF would entertain Barbados’ debt restructuring programme if it included “lofty giveaways” such as a living allowance for civil servants and increases in the non-contributory pensions.
“What is most the laughable thing of all that Mottley said is that she would go to the IMF [if necessary]. Does anybody in Barbados believe that the IMF in its traditional austerity mode for programmes of adjustment, stabilization and fiscal consolidation, would allow a BLP Government to implement a programme with all of these giveaways? It is laughable and this proposal is the most ridiculous thing since we have been doing business in Barbados,” Sinckler stressed.
Also weighing in on the BLP manifesto was political newcomers Solutions Barbados, which slammed the document as “rubbish and an insult to the intelligence of Barbadians”.
In a release from the party’s candidate for Christ Church East, Scott Weatherhead, the fledgling party called on the bankers’ association “and other intellectually astute finance professionals to respond to this rubbish with the intensity and ferocity that it deserves”.
Solutions Barbados, which had accused the BLP of plagiarizing some of its ideas, argued that the BLP’s plan was not supported by sound financial logic.
Weatherhead said the plan would cost approximately $948 million, with capital costs in the order of $392.6 million, while the annual cost “to maintain these ridiculous proposed economic policies” was placed at $555.45 million.
“Since Barbados’ sovereign debt is somewhere around $14 billion and its bond rating is now Caa3 or junk status, what lender in their right mind, except perhaps the IMF, would re-profile Barbados’ debt in such a way as to free up $555.45 million per year in Government expenditure through reduced loan payments? In addition to this, where will the $392.6 million for new capital works projects come from?” Weatherhead questioned.