Days after Government agreed to write off outstanding Value Added Tax (VAT) debts for private sector businesses and waive penalties and arrears, Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley is asking that similar concessions be granted to Barbadians finding it difficult to repay the Student Revolving Loan Fund.
Atherley told Barbados TODAY that in light of the difficult economic climate currently affecting Barbados, some people were finding it difficult to meet their payments to the fund.
He said the cases of these individuals should be reviewed.
“They would have to look and see what are the levels of debt owed by students to them. I suppose perhaps, through a case-by-case basis they could consider giving some relief. I would back a move like that, but I am not talking cases where there is willful delinquency. I am talking about serious cases of hardships,” Atherley said.
Introducing the VAT Amendment Bill in the Senate during its post-lunch session on Wednesday, Government Senator Kay McConney said that following further consultation with the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), a decision was taken to “write off the unpaid taxes from 1996 to 2000”, and waive penalties and interest incurred on arrears from January 1, 2001 until December 2017.
But Atherley said he remained adamant that if relief could be given to businesses, “you can give relief to small poor people”.
“I know of students who are struggling to pay back, who would have approached me. In fact, people have approached me with all kinds of issues. Students who are struggling to pay back, people who are not getting their pensions, people who are struggling with low wages and the expenses now outstrip the pay that they get. Every day I am confronted with hardship cases of Barbadians,” Atherley said.
“All I am saying is that if Government can give relief to big businesses, especially on monies that they collected in the name of government, such as VAT, then of course they can consider some type of relief for poor people who are struggling.
“But I am talking about delinquency; I am talking about students who are struggling. I know that one or two have come to me and we help people in our own way here from our own limited resources.” Atherley added.
Making his contributions to the debate in the Senate, also on Wednesday, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn strongly disagreed with Government’s move, and declared the defaulters “criminals”. Franklyn said he believes that the defaulters, who were a part of the bigger companies on the island, should be made to pay their outstanding debts.