Member of Parliament for the City of Bridgetown Corey Lane on Tuesday appealed to businesses who are still raking in profits even amid the difficult economic times, not to wait for the Government to ask or force them to give back.
Though acknowledging there are some companies struggling because of price increases, supply issues, and other challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lane contended there were others that either maintained or increased profits and could afford to lose a bit.
“All I am asking for is that in the event that you see that profit still flowing in like honey and milk, please…release a little…because some of them have cut and contrived. They’ve cut hours down to the minimum, they’ve sent home the workers at the first sign of trouble, they’ve cut salaries unceremoniously, and at the end of the day, they’re not touching that profit margin,” the first-time MP contended during his contribution to debate on the Pandemic Contribution Levy Bill, 2022.
“Understand that when there is unrest in this country, that the unrest will touch us all….It is not a threat, it is a fact.”
Lane appealed to thriving businesses to increase their corporate social responsibility and programmes.
Rather than shirk payments like the Pandemic Contribution Levy, the MP said, the private sector should be proud to do its part to help Government’s recovery efforts.
“You should be happy, you should be running up to the Treasury to say ‘Minister of Finance, could I pay more? Is this all I can pay? Can I pay a little extra on the top?’,” an animated Lane contended.
However, St George North MP and General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Toni Moore suggested it was an exercise in futility to appeal to some business establishments to do more, and contended that for many of them, corporate social responsibility was done only for them to “look good” in the eyes of existing and potential customers.
In fact, she pointed out, many did not even meet their current legal obligations.
“They are not about values. If they were about values we wouldn’t have to be debating what we are debating here – an imposition of a levy. It would have come so naturally that a government would not have to ask,” Moore argued.
“The very people that the honourable Member of Parliament for The City is appealing to, to give a little more, are the very people who don’t even do the things that they ought to do. And you are appealing to them to exercise a social conscience, even in a time of crisis, and do the things that they don’t have to do?”
Telecommunications companies, life, and general insurance companies, those engaged in the sale of fuel, and commercial banks that had a net income of $5 million or more in financial years 2020, 2021, or both, are subject to a levy of 15 per cent of their net income.
The levy will be in place until March 2023.
The payments to be made by companies are expected to raise $105 million.
An additional $95 million is expected to be raised from the levy payable by individual employees – one per cent of an income of at least $6 250 monthly from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023 – and self-employed persons, who will pay one per cent of an income of $75 000 or more for the same period.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, in announcing the introduction of the levy during her Budget in March this year, said the $120 million expected to be raked in by the tax was just over 10 per cent of what it cost the Government of Barbados to fight COVID-19. (DP)