The Prime Minister’s frank revelation yesterday that she could not give Barbadians any guarantees that there won’t be more layoffs or rises in taxes and fees has stirred up much reaction from the public and understandably so.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Indeed, our Prime Minister has been encouraging citizens to talk, to get engaged in turning around our country from the doldrums of the so-called lost decade. And she has admonished us that all views must contend.
At the first luncheon of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mottley revealed that Government’s big corporate tax cut resulted in $40 million less in revenue and therefore funding must be sought in other areas.
She said: “So that I am not going to give any assurance to anyone that there will be no taxes or no increases. What I will say is that whatever increase there is will be justified on the basis of prudence [and] stability.”
Public reaction so far has been wide and varied.
On our social media platform, some have suggested that the Government is still plugging away at charting a growth path for the economy under the International Monetary Fund-approved Barbados Economic Recovery Programme (BERT) and must continue to take hard decisions.
One commenter noted: “ We wish the glory days of Barbados were here.
“But there’s a long road ahead and therefore I have opted to tread on patiently hoping for a brighter day.”
Another suggested, “ Admittedly things are tough and I am anxious to get more money in my pocket to do a number of things, but I am aware that sacrifices have to made, but I will hold her [ PM Mottley] to her word that any changes will be fair and not onerous.”
On the other side of the spectrum, some have expressed concern and frustration at the possibility of paying more.
A commenter who described herself as a working mother said: “We cannot tax ourselves out of a recession. I cannot take any more increases; it is just too much on wages that are not increasing.
And another suggested: “It’s just not fair that after the PM admitted that the business community benefited from major tax relief and the country has lost millions as a result that ordinary citizens should now be faced with the possibility of increases.
“I am now anxiously waiting on the budget. Lord help us.”
We hope the Government is listening.
First, it would be disingenuous for Barbadians to suggest that the island’s economic fortunes have not started to improve.
At the macro-economic level, the data is not as grim or painful as it was a few months ago.
The Central Bank has told us our international reserves are up, our debt is on the decline, and Government expenditure is being managed. The International Monetary Fund has assured that we have met all our targets under the Extended Fund Facility and that the BERT programme is working. We have finally received upgrades from international rating agencies.
But the lingering challenge remains whether the housewife in St Peter, the carpenter in St James, and the Government worker from St John all feel that they are better off and they are sharing in the economic improvements being touted by the Government.
And that’s where we have to find balance. There is no getting away from the fact that fees and taxes are a necessary evil in keeping schools, hospitals, roads and public transport going.
That being said, Government must know that Barbadians strongly object to our tax dollars being wasted or spent foolishly.
It is, therefore, is duty-bound to demonstrate that its policies are not to only benefit the rich and sidelines the working class and vulnerable.
Forty million dollars in corporate tax cuts we have already argued was not a good idea given the enormous tax burden still being carried by the middle class. And the only way we can lift ourselves out of the morass is by growth, not more taxation.