Government has reported significant progress in paying down its overall arrears owed to individuals, and corporations, and for products and services.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley told her Parliamentary colleagues on Friday that from financial year 2017/2018 to present, Government had paid a total of close to $1.1 billion in arrears.
“This effectively eliminates over 85 per cent of the arrears accumulated during the period 2008 to 2017, especially from VAT, Income Tax and Corporation Tax refunds,” Mottley reported.
“Between April 2019 and January 2020 my Government paid $145 million in Value Added Tax, Income and Corporation tax refunds that Government owed,” she said.
She said: “By paying that $145 million in this fiscal year in VAT refunds, Income Tax refunds and Corporation Tax refunds, this Government has paid back since May 28, 2018, almost $1.1 billion to Barbadian companies and Barbadians, monies owed to them over a decade, easing them,” said the Prime Minister.
She said Government still owed some $163 million in central government arrears and “we still are committed to paying it”.
As for local government arrears, Mottley reported that state-owned enterprises cleared about $145 million during the current fiscal year, which will come to an end in about ten days.
This reduced the amount owed for the period from April 2019 and January 2020, to about $49 million.
“At the start of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation programme (October 2018) the state-owned enterprises of Barbados owed $755 million,” she said.
Mottley gave no indication of how soon the remaining arrears were likely to be paid or if payments would continue apace given the current impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, she insisted that Government was in a marathon race and not a sprint, to clear its arrears and bring the economy on a sustainable growth path, adding that “it just means when I say to you stay the course I didn’t know how prescient I was being about the fact that we truly have to stay the course to be able to carry our people where we need to go in this volatile global environment”.
Mottley, who was addressing Parliament on Friday night ahead of the passing of the Appropriation Bill, lauded her “small but absolutely dedicated team” of officials in her Ministry of Finance, to whom she attributed a lot of the economic successes so far.
Adding that she was proud to be a Barbadian, the Minister of Finance stressed that she was being ably supported by the Director of Economic Affairs, her special team of economic advisors and the government ministers in her ministry.
“I say so because if the time comes for me to reach out across wherever, however, I am going to call on any and every possible Barbadian including the Leader of the Opposition and others in other [political] parties. In this going down [the COVID-19 pandemic], whatever it takes to stabilize this country and to allow it to grow again, we shall do,” she pledged. (MM)