In last Tuesday’s editorial, we issued an open letter to Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid in which we also called on Government to revisit the idea of double taxing those caught between the transition from a road tax to a fuel tax levying system.
At the time, the point was made that while Barbadians are generally law-abiding citizens and will largely follow the rules even if they make little to no sense, “we believe that issue is worthy of a re-look”.
Strong hope was also expressed at the time that given her track record in public life, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley would do what was perceived to be right, or at least that which was considered to be in the public interest” as far as resolving this matter to the satisfaction of all was concerned.
It therefore came as music to our ears last night when our Prime Minister announced during her nationally televised interview with veteran journalist David Ellis marking her first 51 days in office, that our call would be answered.
Indeed, it was clear that no longer do we have a Government that stubbornly sticks to its austerity programme without reference to the concerns of its primary constituents – the people of Barbados- who either had to ‘like it or lump it’ as far as state policies go.
Also it was clear that in at least one major case where Government had erred, Ms Mottley was prepared to say so, which is refreshing to say the least, never mind that Dr Duguid may be less than amused.
“One of my ministers [Dr Duguid] would have given the impression that if you put down your car, that you would literally not have to pay [your road tax] and I have been very clear with the Barbadian public about being fair.
“Against that background, Cabinet on Thursday agreed that while he may have meant, ‘so the police don’t catch you,’ it was also equally capable of being understood that if you put it down, you wouldn’t have to pay and I have asked for the numbers, the numbers are under $2 million and we have said, ‘look, in fairness, let there be a refund for all who write the Ministry of Finance for the period of time between the 12th of June, which is the day [after] the Budget, and the 30th of June when the [road] tax came to an end,’” Mottley announced.
We can only hope that this attitude of compromise and humility will carry over into all aspects of our governance, so that all citizens – not only our motorists who paid their road tax between June 12 and June 30 and are now in line to receive a 75 per cent rebate – can confidently proclaim well into the future that “Mia indeed cares”.
More importantly for us is the feeling that in the midst of our economic trials and tribulations that our Government will continuously take us all into its confidence and that transparency and integrity will abound not only in the form of draft legislation, but find practical expression in the way how Government approaches isssues such as appointments and indeed sackings at the National Housing Corporation and the like; the whole question of pending job losses and what’s generally in store for us as part of the pending bitter International Monetary Fund pill; the true fallout from our recent credit default and the general state of our country’s finances.
Indeed, it was heart-warming to hear the positive response from Dr Duguid last week to our call for more digitization of the operations of Government’s licensing department. However, there has been no sign that Minister of Housing George Payne as yet understands that transparency cuts both ways.
Therefore, while we continue to hold Government’s feet to the fire, it is at least comforting to know that some of its members are listening even if all are not yet ready to wholeheartedly embrace constructive criticism and to willingly show that it is indeed a new day in Barbados’ political history.