Nearly a decade after Barbados staged a duty-free day, the Opposition People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) has called on the Government to revisit the measure for at least six months to help save some struggling businesses.
The issue was put on the table on Friday by a member of the party’s economics team at a media conference to review the Barbados economy.
PdP spokesman on the economy Scott Weatherhead called for diversification of the economy, pointing out that many tourism-related businesses were on the brink of bankruptcy.
He said: “They are not getting many sales.
“Perhaps one of the things Government can consider, and I know this was done at one Christmas many years ago, is the possibility of allowing those duty-free stores to offer their goods and products duty-free to locals because they are not getting a lot of sales.
“The foreigners aren’t here to buy the duty-free goods, and we are aware that some of them are offering duty-free even to locals under the counter. That happens. So what we think Government should do is sanction it.”
It was back in December 2011 that the then Freundel Stuart administration gave the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) the okay to host a duty-free shopping day in Bridgetown, which turned out to be a major hit for those retailers who took part.
Just last month, officials of Barbados’ oldest department store, Cave Shepherd, whose group offers duty-free shopping, said that the COVID-19 pandemic was making it difficult for the firm to continue its operations.
Weatherhead told journalists: “Government should say we are going to allow for a period of six months, for a year, all the duty-free stores to opt to sell their products duty-free to locals. That would help them create sales, help some of those businesses to be sustained and maintain employment levels.”
He said it would also give residents an opportunity to buy things at a rate they could better afford.
“It is not like Government is going to earn much tax revenue from the sale of duty-free products anyway, because they are not going to sell because there are no visitors to buy them.” Weatherhead told journalists. “So they might as well allow them to be sold so at least it creates some amount of economic activity in the Bridgetown area and Limegrove area to help sustain some of those businesses that are feeling the pinch during this time.”