A backbencher in the recently ousted Democratic Labour Party administration is charging that “unscrupulous” importers would likely use the tax measures announced last week by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley as a ruse to get a “surge” of poultry products into the country.
Although James Paul, the chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), did not say how this would be done, he told Barbados TODAY there had already been reports from as early as last month of an increase in imported chicken wings and leg quarters into Barbados.
Paul said the situation could worsen after the new tax measures, including Garbage and Sewage Contribution levy (GSC), take effect from the beginning of next month.
“I am very concerned. We have heard reports recently of an even further surge in imports more recently where some farmers are saying that up to last month we had a situation where a lot of chicken wings were imported into this country and we are hearing talks about chicken quarters.
“This is a new development and we are seeing a situation where there might be unscrupulous people out there who will try to take advantage of the situation [tax measures]. We want to make sure of course, that the usual safeguards that are there will not be eroded as a result of what we are facing at the moment,” he said.
In her the presentation of the so-called mini Budget on June 11, Mottley announced that effective July 1 the road tax would be abolished and replaced with a fuel tax to be levied at 40 cents per litre on petrol and diesel and five cents per litre on kerosene, to raise about $80 million in a fiscal year.
She also announced that Barbadians would pay the GSC through the Barbados Water Authority, at $1.50 per day for households, while businesses would pay 50 per cent of their water bill.
Agricultural workers have complained that the taxes could have a devastating impact on their businesses and result the up prices.
Paul could not give the extent of the financial hit the farmers were expected to talk, nor could he could he say how high prices would rise as a result of the taxes, explaining that he was still collecting information from industry players.
However, he agreed that if there were no changes for the sector farmers would be forced to pass on any costs to consumers.
“Generally the whole thing is that the increase in the water bill and of course allied to that is the increase in fuel prices. Of course, this is a pass-through tax that you can’t avoid, the main concern there is how do we still maintain the industry’s competitiveness,” he said.
Paul told Barbados TODAY he was aware that the Ministry of Agriculture was in the process of gathering information regarding the concerns of farmers in order for Government to make a determination on what measures could be put in place.
Following the information gathering process, he said, he was hoping a meeting could be held with Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir to seek answers to their concerns. “We want to make sure that the safeguards that are there to assist in the development of the industry, that those safeguards are not compromised. What we are seeing is that there might be people out there who want to use Barbados’ scarce foreign exchange that is there instead of development purposes for purposes to really just import products that we can produce in this country. Those are the issues we are tackling and we have to face them and certainly we will be facing them,” said Paul.
Following concerns from hoteliers a week ago that some of them on the west coast could be forced to pay as much as $60,000 on their water bill as a result of the GSC levy, Mottley hinted at the possibility of a review of the process with a view to implementing a cap on payments for those in the tourism sector and the industrial sector “who use a large mount of water”.