Barbadian women will benefit to some extent from the measures announced in this month’s mini Budget by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, but the suite of taxes will have a “disproportionate impact” on them, a women’s advocacy group predicts.
The National Organization of Women (NOW) has described the financial statement as one of “give and take” for women, with Mottley offering some reprieve by removing the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), restoring free university education, and offering public servants a five per cent pay rise, while forcing women to dig deeper by imposing gas and garbage and sewage taxes.
NOW Public Relations Officer Marsha Hinds said single mothers would likely carry the brunt of the austerity Budget.
“We were one of the entities that had first highlighted that the university fees were going to disproportionately affect women because most of the times when children are being paid for through UWI it is some of those same single parent headed households that we are talking about,” Hinds told Barbados TODAY in an interview.
“We are more than elated that the university fees have been reviewed . . . [and] single mothers can benefit from having their children go back to the university partly subsidized by the Government.
“Obviously the other Budget measures will have an implication for women and you remember that most of the households are single, female-headed households, so again there is going to be a disproportionate effect on women,” she added.
Mottley announced in the June 11 Budget, that effective July 1 she would replace road tax with a 40-cent per litre tax on diesel and gasoline, and five cents per litre on kerosene.
In addition, the Prime Minister who is also the country’s Minister of Finance, imposed a $1.50 per day Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) levy payable by households on their water bills. She also introduced a higher tax band of 40 per cent on income of over $75,000 a per year, and effective October 1, a 2.5 per cent health service charge – 1.5 per cent to be paid by employers and one per cent by employees.
There will also be a US$35 tax for travel within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and US$70 for travel outside CARICOM.
Hinds told Barbados TODAY women here had been “under extreme stress financially” in recent years, but recognized that the Mottley administration was serious about tackling the island’s economic problems head on; therefore they were thinking “about the greater good”.
“It is a bit of a give and take and we all have to try to manage as best as we can and create support. It calls on community groups, it calls on churches, it calls on organizations under our affiliates, and all of us as individuals [to sacrifice],” she added.
The women’s rights advocate said with the pending impact on households of the new measures, the support organizations would now require “stronger state support and stronger private sector support” in order to assist women in need “when things become hard”.
She suggested that in order to minimize the impact, Government should examine other policies such as the August due date for land tax payment, which she said had negatively impacted households headed by single mothers at a time when they were preparing for back-to-school.
Hinds said the organization would also push Government to address some outstanding matters, including a framework for an after care facility, as well as other gender concerns, which she said remained a worrying issue despite Mottley’s election to the country’s highest political post and an increasing number of women in the Senate.
“At the end of the day though while we are assured that those are positive steps in the right direction we still have a long way to go in terms of the national perception of what women are supposed to do, the type of ways that a woman is to be treated and engaged. We still have issues of emotional intelligence,” she said, stressing that too many women still suffered “extreme abuse” at home, including emotional, financial and sexual abuse.
Hinds also suggested that Government assigns one of the three temporary judges to be appointed to clear the backlog of criminal cases, to deal specifically with family matters.