“Don’t allow any company or any individual to carry you in the palm of their hand!”
Deputy President of the Senate Rudolph Cappy Greenidge issued this warning to members of the political directorate as the Upper House debated the repeal of the Fiscal Incentives Act on Wednesday.
Greenidge, who served as Minister of Labour in a previous Barbados Labour Party administration, also cautioned Government to “guard against the perception of preferential treatment” in the granting of concessions.
“Barbadians are very discerning now, and some will tell you that businesses which benefit from concessions and incentives remain obligated and indebted to governments, and they are expected to return the favour to Government at some time, and in some form or fashion,” he said, adding that “once upon a time you could get away with certain things, but you cannot do that now, because the ‘penetrating eye’ of the Barbadian is always on you.
“They will watch all the political representatives. They will watch the people who sit in your box and whose boxes you sit in at cricket, they will watch who goes to your parties and whose parties you attend, who takes you to lunch and whom you take to lunch, whose car you are driving and who is driving your car. It is not what it used to be. There is a lot of mistrust, questioning and scrutiny,” he added.
Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn expressed similar sentiments, speaking of what he had personally experienced when his trade union went into foreign owned businesses to represent the workers.
“We invited people from Canada and other places who exploited our workers. Because they supported former Government ministers, they felt they could do what they liked. The [just repealed] Act gave the ministers carte blanche where they could waive not only VAT [Value Added Tax] and other duties and taxes, but even National Insurance. Corruption brings these companies in who abuse their workers; we now have a duty to correct all of these things.”
However, Greenidge said despite these issues, the Act, which was passed in 1974 shortly after Barbados became independent, “may be obsolete now but it did bring some measure of economic prosperity to Barbados, in that it stimulated manufacturing in Barbados, assisted in job creation, and companies found Barbados an attractive place in which to set up their operations because they could enjoy up to 15 years of tax concessions”. (DH)