Any increase in taxes or user fees for services will be an additional burden on an already struggling population, leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Verla DePeiza has declared.
Arguing that salaries have not improved materially in many years, DePeiza claimed that last year’s five per cent increase awarded to public sector employees was immediately wiped out by a slew of taxes that followed.
She said the fact that Government had to find new revenue stream to plug a 40 million dollar gap created by the slashing of corporate tax rates, meant more pressure on taxpayers.
DePeiza said: “Every couple of months you get another notice that user fees have increased.
“So whether it is that taxes are adjusted, VAT moved, the user fees are increased, whatever it is, it is an additional burden and I don’t know that you will find anybody to tell you otherwise.
“You don’t even have to be an economist to know that.”
She was responding to suggestions by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn that there was a possibility that more fees could go up. Last week the postal service increased its processing fee for parcels by 660 per cent.
Addressing the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon on Wednesday, Mottley declared: “I am not going to give any assurance to anyone that there will be no taxes or fees.
“What I will say is that whatever increase there is will be justified on the basis on prudence [and] stability.”
DePeiza suggested that Barbadians would find it more difficult to meet their monthly commitments, including paying bills.
She said: “What we should be doing now is considering whether we need the type of lifestyle that we are looking to project and protect.
“Do we truly want the rolling back of the social welfare state from generations building up?
“Or do we need to rework it in a different way? I don’t think Barbadians expected having to pay for everything in the way that they are being called upon to do now.”
She continued: “The expectation was, yes, we would have taxation, and out of that taxation we would be able to support certain services.
“But now we are paying for health with the Health Levy, we are paying for collecting the garbage, we are paying more for water; electricity which arguably is not Government, but it continues to rise.
“And as for the supermarket bill, that has had exponential increases.
“It wasn’t realised that the NSRL [National Social Responsibility Levy] protected a basket of goods and when NSRL was removed, so too was the protection.”
DePeiza said she was concerned that the hike in the post office’s processing fee would have a negative impact on entrepreneurs who would eventually have to pass the cost on to the consumer.
She said: “Not just the shock of the increase, but how it has been increased per item.
“I am really serious about Barbados needing to find a different direction other than trying to live to someone else’s expectation.”