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Thorne questions benefit, impact of corporate tax reform bill

by Ryan Gilkes
4 min read
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In a sweeping attack on the Mia Mottley administration’s handling of the economy, Leader of the Opposition Ralph Thorne has raised concerns about the clarity and transparency of the government’s corporate tax reforms through the Corporation Top-Up Tax Bill.

Speaking during the Bill’s debate in the House of Assembly, he blasted the government’s tendency to blame external factors for economic challenges as “excuses for failure”. He instead accused the administration of mismanaging taxpayers’ money.

“I reject these excuses being made about the failures in the Barbadian economy,” Thorne said. “The Barbadian economy is failing because of mismanagement . . . bad policies and leakage . . . financial leakage from the economy. Now, whether it is happening by way of negligence or intention, the people in Barbados are feeling rather uncomfortable that their monies are not being used in a way that will be advantageous to this country.”

He also expressed uncertainty about whether the legislation would lead to a rise or fall in taxation and called for more precise information from Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn.

“We need the honourable member [for Christ Church East Central] who spoke on behalf of the government to clarify the impact of the legislation,” the opposition leader said. “The people of this country want to know whether this amendment will increase or decrease taxation.”

In a call for transparency and accountability, the opposition leader urged the government to provide specific details about the tax legislation and its broader purpose.

Thorne said: “In a speech lasting some two hours, the honourable Minister [in the Ministry] of Finance was unable to tell his audience whether this taxation would result in more taxes for the government or less taxes for the government.  He doesn’t give details these days; he makes political speeches, and if this speech lasted two hours this morning, one hour and 45 minutes of that speech was political content and in 15 minutes, he went to the legislation itself.

“I ask him to give this country the particulars . . . to say what is the purpose of the amendment, to say whether it will net more for the government, to say whether it will reduce taxation, to say whether it will increase taxation, and to say what is its overall benefit to the economy. It is those details that are missing. We want those details . . . the people of this country want those details. It is not for me to deny the government that right, except that it is also for me to ask the government, through the honourable member who spoke, to give the details as to this legislation and its larger purpose.”

The opposition parliamentarian then turned to the government partly blaming the war in Ukraine and lower water levels in the Panama Canal for the country’s economic woes.

“Convince the people of this country that a group of soldiers fighting against each other in eastern Europe are causing failures in Barbados,” Thorne declared. “These tired excuses for failure are no longer acceptable.”

He further called for the government to shift its discourse and focus on addressing real issues affecting the Barbadian economy, pointing to other Caribbean nations that are growing economically without blaming external factors.

The Christ Church South MP also raised examples of questionable spending. He referred to a recent instance in which the government claimed to have spent $175 000 on repairs to bathrooms and a cricket pitch at a police sports facility.

“The accounting and financial report provided by the government is not satisfactory,” he said. “The public is now suspicious as to why certain works can suddenly be done when they could not have been accomplished years ago.”

He also criticised the government’s spending priorities and called for greater oversight and justification for the use of taxpayers’ money.

Thorne further reiterated the opposition’s stance that no credible parliamentarian would deny the government’s right to impose taxes, but he emphasised the need for clear communication and justification.

“We urge the government to provide the people of Barbados with the particulars they deserve,” he said. “Tell the public whether this taxation will result in more taxes for the government or less. Explain the overall benefit to the economy.”

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