Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn has dismissed as a “nasty rumour”, a claim that Government plans to put a 40 per cent tax on gratuities paid to public servants.
The assertion was made in a WhatsApp voice note that has been circulating on social media. In it, a woman claim that it was announced at a National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) meeting in March, that “this government want to take out 40 per cent of their gratuity”.
It is not clear when the message was recorded, but the woman questioned why people were not speaking out against the proposal.
“I want to know why people are so quiet about that. You know what is 40 per cent of people gratuity money?” she queried, insisting that it was “not a rumour” and the plan had to go to Parliament to become reality.
However, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Straughn expressed disappointment that Barbadians were using social media to create fear and distraction.
“I can assure the public here now that there has never been any discussion relating to taxing gratuities by this Government. I understand it was a proposal that was contemplated before, but I can say definitively that this Government has never ever contemplated taxing gratuities at any level, and therefore I want to put that nasty rumour to rest,” he said.
“As it relates to anything to do with taxation, it is always announced in this place [Parliament]. But on that particular issue, that has never ever been discussed by myself, the Prime Minister, or the Ministry of Finance. That is not the position of this Government at all.”
Stressing that there was a process for taxes to be applied, Straughn added:
“Everybody in Barbados knows you cannot just up and tax something. If there is to be a tax, the Minister of Finance has to come to [Parliament] and announce through you, Sir, to the rest of Barbados that there is a tax. Everybody knows that . . . . That is why it is important that part of our fashioning a new consciousness is that ability to think critically.”
The Minister further argued that as the country continues to go through economic and social transformation, residents “have to be discerning enough to determine what make sense and what doesn’t make sense”.
“Our intention is to get out of this hole as fast as we can, which means that all of us in here, the rest of the public service and the rest of the country, we have to be focused on the things that are going get us out of the hole, not on these things that distract people and create what ends up being a waste of time,” he said.
The economist added that any announcement from the Government would come in Parliament, through its official communication arm – the Government Information Service (GIS) – other media outlets, or a Government Minister speaking at an event.