Senate debate on the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2018, began today with some upper-chamber legislators questioning the route the Government has taken to repeal and replace the road tax with a fuel tax.
Opposition Senator Crystal Drakes queried whether fuel taxes were still relevant today, given that more countries around the world were taxing other aspects of vehicle use such as carbon emissions.
She said: “I was disappointed when the fuel tax was introduced, because extra taxes are simply an easy way out in terms of collecting revenue. We have committed ourselves to reducing our carbon emissions by 2030 like many other countries in the world, and have already carried out some feasibility studies on this. I believe people would be willing to pay a tax that will contribute to the island’s overall wellbeing, and I hope there will be a tax credit regarding this fuel tax in the future.”
Senator Christopher Maynard warned that other sectors such as farming could be affected, since “the owners of anything with an engine, whether it is a tractor, irrigation pump, or fishing boat will have to pay this tax whenever they put fuel in them, and this could result in higher food prices owing to increased production costs”. He also agreed with Senator Drakes on a closer look at emissions testing and the increased use of hybrid and electric vehicles.
Senator Toni Moore, the general secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, brought two perspectives to the debate, one of them personal. She recalled that shortly after buying a truck ten years ago, “the cost of diesel fuel skyrocketed and the cost of road tax went up from just under $400 to $1600, and the careful analysis I had done nine months before making my decision to buy the truck went up in smoke. So on the one hand, you can say removal of the road tax is a good thing, when you consider that road tax is no longer a cost burden people have to bear on an annual basis.
“On the other hand,” she continued, “there are some people for whom the fuel tax may become an additional burden; for example, travelling officers in the public service. Their basic allowance has not changed for the last ten years and now they have to deal with a 40 cents-per-litre fuel tax, which may result in them having to pay out more on a monthly basis.”
She stated that her union had told its members to “give the tax about six months so we can see in real terms what it is doing so we can make the necessary representation.” Senator Moore also expressed hope that the revenue collected would indeed be used for Government’s stated purpose of road repairs across the island.