The Grenville Phillips Column – Everybody Hates Chris
Some of our Members of Parliament recently claimed that they will not rest until someone is locked up, and they seemed to have found a target. It seems that they, media reporters and talk show moderators have all received the same memo – target Chris Sinckler. Before his reputation is irreparably damaged, let us look at the target of his legacy
After trying various iterations of a medium-term economic growth strategy, like any other entrepreneur, he seems to have happened upon his achievement, which in his case was the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL). Immediately, the same actors in the business community, established media, professional associations and unions joined with the BLP and prejudged it as unworkable.
The tax was predicted to: make products unaffordable, destroy businesses, cause mass layoffs, and lead to mass poverty. The public was encouraged to despise the tax-master, by claiming that it was unconscionable and uncaring for Chris to demand additional taxes from Barbadians, who were already so highly overtaxed that it was literally impossible for them to bear any more.
Once it was implemented, none of the predictions came true. The NSRL was perhaps the most fair tax that any Government of Barbados has ever introduced since our independence. By comparison, VAT is by far the least fair. The NSRL forced businesses to be efficient and productive in order to be competitive. VAT created unfair competition by reducing business cash-flows, and forcing efficient businesses to significantly increase the price of their products above that of their smaller competitors.
Many businesses were able to absorb the NSRL through greater efficiencies. Others simply obeyed orders and marched for: inefficiency, unproductivity, uncompetitiveness, unfairness, corrupting no-bid contracts, and getting their party in government.
Strangely, the increase in taxes under BERT are not to be seen as unconscionable and burdensome for a heavily overtaxed population. Instead, they are to be seen as responsible, for which we are expected to happily pay and gratefully thank the tax-mistress.
I was recently invited to BrassTacks (a rarity since the General Election) where Ryan Straughn explained that it was impossible for one Minister to do all of the ministerial work required in the Ministry of Finance. Minister Straughn made this comment to justify having 3 Ministers in the Ministry of Finance, plus 5 BERT consultants all working full-time every day. These 8 persons are so exhausted that they have had to outsource much of their critical work to a UK based specialist consulting firm, one White Oak.
On BrassTacks, Minister Straughn stated that “the public has to judge based on performance”. Well, let us do just that. Chris appeared to mismanage the national economy in the same manner as the other Ministers of Finance have done over the past 40 years, by implementing the same 5 programs. Namely: send home party detractors, hire party supporters, award corrupting no-bid contracts, mismanage public services, and increase the national debt.
The current Ministers of Finance, and their legion of consultants, are implementing the same 5 programs, but with one critically important difference. All past Ministers of Finance were restrained in how far they could go with each of the 5 programs, by adhering to the unbroken promise to always pay our debts to international creditors. For the first time since our Independence, we broke that promise and chose to default, and the same partisan actors could not even bring themselves to be impartially critical. But back to Chris.
If it is truly impossible for one person to do all of the ministerial work in the Ministry of Finance, then how was Chris able to do the work of 3 Ministers plus a legion of consultants, invent the most responsible tax Barbados has ever had, pay our international creditors, and sill be among the living?