Opposition Senator Crystal Drakes is suggesting that the Mia Mottley-led administration create a comprehensive growth and development strategy for Barbados.
Speaking this afternoon on the International Companies (Repeal) Bill 2018 in the Senate, Drakes at the same time dismissed any notion of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan qualifying as such a strategy.
In fact, Drakes contended that the BERT plan was really an austerity plan.
She said her view that offshore companies be fully integrated into the local economy to increase their level of engagement, must use the growth and development plan as its reference point.
“I will always come when it’s relevant; and I will always stand here until I get it, Government Senators; cause I haven’t seen it yet. You want to know what I am talking about? – a growth and development strategy for Barbados. And do not tell me that the BERT programme is a growth and development strategy, cause it is not. It is an austerity plan. Don’t care how you all try to package it,” Senator Drakes insisted.
“I, a Barbadian of this country would like a growth and development plan,” she emphasized.
She said she was asking for such a plan because when Government changes the tax regime here, there must be a point of reference by which such amendments are being made for everyone’s benefit.
“Because, clearly, the international community has shown they are not interested in our development. Whether it be organizations that we are part of or not a part of; lending agencies; funding agencies and the like. We have to chart our way forward, and we have to do so unapologetically. So I am asking for a sound, comprehensive growth and development strategy, plan, whatever you want to call it,” the Opposition Senator told the Chamber.
Drakes argued that when she looks through such a plan, it must outline a way of leading the country forward because the Government has been telling people to rest easy in that the foreign reserves are there.
“But they are off of borrowed money. We did not earn any of it. It is money that has to be repaid. My plan for growth and development, when the Government devises it, will show me how we will earn foreign exchange,” she pointed out.
Drakes also asked Government to provide answers about how it expects to make up the shortfall in revenue and considering the fiscal targets set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), now that it has slashed the 30 per cent corporation taxes previously paid by local businesses to 5.5 per cent.
“Anyone who finished primary school would know there is a fundamental difference between 30 per cent and 5.5 per cent. So there is an apparent shortfall in the fiscal targets that were set. I don’t know, I am not on the inside, I don’t know if they have been revised so that you still meet the six per cent primary balance
. . . no, don’t let me misquote, 3.3 per cent come April 2019,” she added.
The Opposition Senator also questioned the Prime Minister’s ministerial statement when she said the schedule of tax measures was revenue neutral.
“Revenue neutral means that when we move over from one tax regime to the new tax regime, you don’t have to look for anymore taxes . . . you don’t have to raise anymore new taxes; you don’t have to decrease anything. What you receive from the old regime will be collected in the new,” argued Drakes.
She reasoned that the fiscal targets set by Government under the IMF’s extended fund facility are that personal income tax would be $497 million come April and corporation tax would be $360.9 million, an almost $80 million increase in corporation taxes.
“I don’t know that is feasible. I haven’t done any homework behind it. But if you are going to reduce something by almost 25 per cent something fundamental has to shift,” the Opposition Senator contended.