With the first water bill due at the end of this month since the introduction of the Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) on August 1, concerned farmers are meeting with Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir tomorrow, hoping to negotiate an ease.
Head of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul, who requested the meeting on behalf of the farmers, told Barbados TODAY commercial farmers were fearful that the tax, which amounts to 50 per cent of their water bill, would make it virtually impossible for them to compete against international producers.
“In terms of livestock farmers and those who use a lot of water for processing at their farms, the impact is going to be severe for them,” Paul, a former backbencher in the Freundel Stuart administration, said.
“We have approached the Ministry of Agriculture on the matter and they have agreed to meet with us on Friday. Any farmer who is registered commercially is worried because it carries up the price of the product and they have to compete with international producers,” he added.
Paul further contended that farmers were being taxed for waste disposal services that they do not use.
However, the BAS head told Barbados TODAY a waiver of the tax was not the only solution to easing the farmers’ burden.
He explained that the ministry had restrictions on the areas of production that harvested water could be used. Paul therefore argued that if the Ministry of Agriculture assisted farmers in getting modular equipment to purify the water, the impact of the new tax would be neutralized for some farmers.
“We have to ensure that there is as little water wastage as possible. We have to invest in the technology to harvest water. We have to determine how we enable the farmers to make better use of harvested water because the technology is changing where there are modular treatment facilities that you can put on a farm and that water could be used in the everyday production process,” Paul pointed out.
Government announced the GSC in June to be levied through Barbados Water Authority (BWA) bills. The levy is expected to result in Government saving in the region of $65 million annually. Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the GSC would allow Government to remove the expenditure of the Sanitation Services Authority (SSA) from the consolidated fund.
Mottley, who is also Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment made the announcement during the presentation of her mini-Budget on June 11.
“Households, Mr, Speaker will pay the equivalent of $1.50 per day for this Garbage and Sewage Contribution. Of that $1.50, $1.25 will go to the Sanitation Services Authority for the offsetting of its expenditure in garbage collection and $0.25 will be retained by the Barbados Water Authority as a contribution towards the maintenance of our sewage systems,” she said.
“In the case of commercial entities, their contribution will be 50 per cent of their water bill with half of that amount going to the Sanitation Services Authority towards the garbage collection, and the other half remaining with the Barbados Water Authority,” she added.
Hoteliers have also complained that the tax would increase their water bills to up to $60,000 a month, up from $40,000 a month. (CM)