A 660 per cent hike in the post office’s processing fee for parcels and letter packets has been defended by Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn, who hinted the hike may only the beginning of a new raft of charges ahead.
Straughn told Voice of Barbados’ Down to Brasstacks that the time had come for a number of Government fees to be reviewed as marriage licence fees had already been increased.
While stopping short of declaring
more fee increases in coming months, Straughn said it was necessary to fund a continuing high level of professional postal service.
He told the programme: “A number of fees that have been levied or charged by Government for a long time really have not been reviewed in any substantial way for the better part of 25 or 30 years.
“There are a whole host of other fees across Government that also need to be reviewed.”
The Postal Service announced that effective January 20, the cost of the Advice Fee for processing all parcels and letter packets at the post office would be increased from $1.50 to $10 – an increase of about 666 per cent.
Consumer advocate Malcom Gibbs-Taitt argued that the hike was onerous, adding that “poor people just cannot afford it”.
But Straughn said: “The reality is that [we need] to come to some reasoning with respect to the fact that the fees being charged by some agencies in Government need to reflect the cost of doing those services”.
He declared that the changes in fees were necessary to allow Government to “better deliver the service that the people want”.
He suggested that if those fees were not changed over time then it would most likely come in the form of more taxes.
With Government’s restoration of tuition-free university education while the education cost continues to rise “it means that the other fees and services being offered by Government of necessity have to go up”.
“I can’t say brace yourself for more increases but we have to be circumspect with respect to what it is Government will offer,” he said.
It was also revealed on Monday that it is now costing a little bit more to get married in Barbados.
Straughn was not able to say what the new fees were but stated that marriage fees were increased, adding that they were “demand-driven”.
“I am saying that in reviewing what is involved with respect to providing the service there has to be some reflection in terms of what the public will bear with respect to that,” said Straughn.
One caller also raised concern about the increase in the fee to change the registration of a vehicle for another purpose, which the caller said went from $100 to $1,000.
This, said Straughn, was “relative to the activity”.
Using the fees that vendors in the public markets pay as an example, Straughn explained that they were only charged $0.75 per day, but it was not relative to the kind of maintenance needed at those facilities.
Straughn said: “That is why the reforms we want to implement we want to do them as quickly as we can so people can start seeing the benefits sooner.
“If we take too long to implement then that gap between tax and quality of public service will remain and therefore people remain unsatisfied.”