Four months after throwing his support behind the abolition of the road tax and the introduction of a tax on fuel at the pumps, consumer rights advocate Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt is calling on Government to review the amount being charged.
Effective July 1, consumers started paying the new tax at a rate of 40 cents per litre of petrol and diesel and five cents per litre of kerosene.
At the same time, commercial vehicles were expected to pay an annual registration fee, the sum of which is 50 per cent of the existing road tax.
This measure was expected to rake in some $80 million, compared to the approximately $65 million per year in road tax.
Gibbs-Taitt said three months after it was implemented, consumers have been crying out that the 40 cent tax was simply too much. He suggested that Government do a review and lower that tax.
“All of the reports that I have had tell me that the 40 cents per litre is much too high to replace the road tax. I am still in favour of this methodology but I fear the 40 cents per litre is much too high,” he said.
“It is somewhere in the region of 50 per cent higher than it needs to be,” he said.
In addition to his call for a review of the fuel tax amount, the consumer rights advocate said it was about time Government invite consumer bodies to sit at the table with the social partners as critical decisions affecting consumers continue to be made.
Gibbs-Taitt is the Director General of the Barbados Consumers Research Organization (BarCRO).
He said it was a “travesty” that Government had not broadened the scope of the Social Partnership, currently trade unions, private sector and Government, to include the consumer rights organization.
“The consumer body is a socio-economic dimension yet nobody thinks to appreciate that of all the bodies that there are – Government, business and trade unions – none of them can properly represent a social partnership because they themselves are informed by the same consumers they want to ignore. It just cannot happen,” he said.
Although having about 600 registered members, BarCRO has been unable to have a meeting with more than 20 people with its last one being about a year ago. Acknowledging the situation, Gibbs-Taitt said, “The people who we should be speaking to and for are well over 60,000 people. It is not a meaningful situation, and I regret to have to report that but it is true,” he admitted.
Gibbs-Taitt said he was now a voice in the wilderness, telling Barbados TODAY that his organization was simply not getting the support needed for it to better function on consumers’ behalf.
“The consumers of Barbados only come together when there is a crisis,” said Gibbs-Taitt, “I think we are at crisis stage right now as far as how the consumers are being treated by the retail market place and even how they are treated by Government, but who am I to be able to speak for consumers when they appear not to want a body to speak for themselves?” he said.
“As I said, Barbadians only react when they realize they are in a crisis themselves. I don’t think a consumer organization can operate in that manner. We have to have people on board for whom we speak at all times, in good times and in bad times. We cannot wait for a crisis then to operate. That makes no sense,” he added.