Government backbencher Gline Clarke is charging that a number of young professionals are thinking of packing up and seeking employment elsewhere because the wheels of business facilitation spin much too slowly.
In taking a shot in Parliament yesterday at the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which governed the country between 2008 and May 24 this year, but which does not now have a seat in the House, the Member of Parliament for St George North said many of these professionals, including lawyers and doctors, were worried because of the “hardship” they endured over the past ten years.
He said of particular concern was the slow pace with which both the tax and judicial systems worked, limiting their capacity to earn income.
“This whole question of fear must not be part of our society,” Clarke said as he joined the debate on the amendment of the Barbados Revenue Authority Act to repeal the system for the issuance of tax clearance certificates and for related matters.
“There are many persons who shy away from Barbados, and many youngsters. I have heard many young people who say to me they want to leave this society. I have a few professionals who say to me, ‘I am scared’. There are many young lawyers and doctors who want to remain in Barbados but because the system is so slow [they are thinking of leaving],” he said.
“The justice system in Barbados has ground to halt. During the last campaign many lawyers came to me and say, ‘we can’t make anything because in the system, we can’t get a judgment’. That is something we need to deal with immediately just like how we are dealing with this system today. There are many people who want to remain in Barbados but in order to remain in Barbados we have to be able to put things right. We have to undo ten years of hardship that people went through.”
The parliamentarian questioned the status of Value Added Tax and Income Tax returns, while suggesting that Government considers issuing bonds in place of those refunds.
The DLP administration’s decision last year to amend the BRA Act to make it mandatory for individuals and corporations to be fully paid up to all branches of the state before obtaining a tax clearance certificate impacted a wide cross section of professionals.
In response to the amendment, which was criticized by the Bar Association, commercial banks suspended over 300 real estate-related transactions estimated at more than $220 million, which officials in the real estate industry had complained had the potential to send the industry “back into a recession”.
“What it actually did was to bring to an almost halt, the ability of financial transactions to be executed at a time when the country needed everything put in place to encourage growth,” Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn said.
However, he said, with the Barbados Labour Party now removing the “draconian and restrictive” measure, there should be renewed confidence and improved business facilitation.
“This bill is just one part of that whole business facilitation ethos that this Government intends to undertake to unlock growth in this economy . . . . This particular amendment will bring some ease to a wide cross section of businesses in Barbados,” Straughn stressed, while pledging that the Ministry of Finance would ensure that there was a “commensurate delivery of service” to the revenues being collected.
“What you are going to see over the coming months certainly will be frontal engagement by this Government to be able to facilitate the business of individuals, facilitate the interest of commercial entities in this country, facilitate the interest of investors, both domestic and foreign, such that the engagement in Barbados will send a clear message that Barbados is again open for business for all,” Straughn said.