Leader of the Opposition Joseph Atherley is adamant that the two per cent foreign exchange charge, which was approved in the House of Assembly today, will hurt the average Barbadian and have an adverse effect on small businesses as well.
The St Michael West MP was speaking during the Exchange Control (Amendment) Bill, 2020 debate when he told the Chamber that the move will make business more costly and affect householders who look for “an ease” with cheaper prices.
“What I interpret from the measure put before us is that you are going to increase the cost of doing business to small businesses in Barbados,” he noted.
The Opposition Leader said when you add this additional cost to existing costs it could more than likely “stifle” business initiatives.
“It will stifle or dampen attempts at self-endeavour and self-development in terms of business initiative,” he told the Chamber.
“We always have to refer to the context. This is taking place with added water charges already increasing the cost of doing business. This is taking place in the context of added energy
cost already increasing the cost of doing business. This is taking place in the context of increased taxation already escalating the costs to small businesses doing business in Barbados . . .”
The Opposition lead spokesmen said while he understood that Government was looking to plug the leakage of foreign currency that occurs when Barbadians buy abroad the measure will also affect the average person as well.
“The reality is that people buy overseas because the cost is cheaper.
“Some rely on that to cushion the effect of cost of living at home. Some rely on that as a means of providing products and supplies for their businesses so they can offer a lower cost to their customers.”
Atherley, leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development, also charged that the measure would have a negative impact on labour as well.
“And as the Member for St Peter did intonate by something he said, you have to take as part of that context the wage demands on business operators that will come from labour.
“This is in a context of increased taxation, higher cost of living, other charges of user fees increasing the cost to consumers, the demands for wage increases on the part of labour will intensify. Therefore I think that has to be considered,” the party leader said.
Atherley also chided Government for opposing the measure under the previous Democratic Labour Party administration, but now professing it to be “a good thing”.
“When this measure would have been initially introduced by the former administration it was a bad thing. Now it is to be supported by this administration validated by this Parliament it is a good thing . . .
“If you are going to do that say that we thought it was bad then but we think it is good now. Government is attempting to have Parliament approve that which they do not consider to be a good thing . . . but they will do it anyhow . . ,” he told the Lower House.