Time to REMOVE the VAT

Submitted by Wayne Cadogan

Now that the dust has settled regarding the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) I would like to add my two cents to the debate. All countries have always had to depend on taxes to run their country and clearly, the Value Added Tax (VAT) did not accomplish what it was intended to do. The main reason why it failed is because the government did not have total control and several businesses refused to pay the VAT after collecting it. If it was being efficiently collected, there would be no need to create the NSRL tax.

Now that a tax has been implemented which affects everybody and that businesses cannot get away with ‘murder’ as they were accustomed, they will continue to cry out because they all have to pay the NSRL up front now that the government has greater control over its collection.

My advice to the Minister of Finance and the government, now that you have a cash cow and sound method of everybody paying the NSRL tax, remove the 17.5 VAT tax completely and increase the NSRL tax to 15% and this would ease the burden on the taxpayers and the guaranteed tax collection from all, especially the businesses and more so those unscrupulous business owners.

While I am at it concerning taxes and that the country is faced with all sorts of people dumping their garbage all over the country, especially the gullies and other places. I would like to suggest to the government that they impose a 2% waste disposable levy on all large, small appliances and electronics.  This way the owner pays up front for the disposable when it is no longer functional and has to be disposed of.

I would hope that since the country is about to move into election mode that the current government does not wait until the last minute of the silly season to drop such a ploy on the people of Barbados such as dropping taxes to confuse the masses as they did the last election with the old woman and the bus advertisement.

The Grenville Phillips Column – Blinded to the Obvious

I was hopeful and excited before the recent meeting of the Social Partnership.  All sides recognised that we were on the brink of economic ruin and they were anxious to find an effective solution.  They could not wait one more week.  Therefore, I highly commend the Government, Unions and the Private Sector for putting Barbados first.

Before the meeting, the Government repeatedly explained that they were desperate for a solution.  They had designed and implemented the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) as their best solution, and claimed to be willing to replace it with a better solution if one could be found.  I was impressed with this apparent change of attitude.

The DLP administration appeared to be finally maturing by willing to accept good advice.  This is in direct contrast of them generally following bad economic advice over the past 9 years.  They seemed oblivious to the fact that when they repeatedly failed, we repeatedly suffered.

The Private Sector representatives did not think that the NSRL would work.  They are correct.  Higher taxes will not result in greater economic growth, which is the obvious solution to Barbados’s unsustainable debt situation.

The Union representatives thought that the NSRL was too austere – it is too much of a bitter pill to swallow.  They are correct.  They suggested that the dosage be cut in half, to 5%.  The Government explained the consequences of reducing the NSRL.  Namely, that since it is now illegal to cut public workers’ salaries, the only option available to the Government was to send home up to 10,000 public workers.  This needs an explanation.

In 1991, the IMF directed the DLP administration to cut the cost of the civil service by $300M, or else.  Approximately 75% of public workers agreed to have their salaries reduced by 8% for 18 months.  With elections coming due, the BLP promised the workers that they would remove this option if they were elected.  They were elected and kept their promise.  Before it can be deemed a reckless promise, the BLP should explain why 92% of a persons’ salary is not preferred over 0%.

One of the principal aims of the meeting was for the Government to receive a better plan.  I was disappointed that after calling for an urgent meeting, a better plan was not proposed.  Clearly something went terribly wrong – for us.  Do they not understand that if a better plan is not proposed, then a severe austerity plan will be implemented?  Who really wants austerity?

The private sector businesses do not want austerity, because it will leave households with less money to spend in their businesses.  The unions do not want austerity, because Barbadian workers are already over-taxed, and to burden them with more taxes is unconscionable.  The Government does not want an austerity based solution because an over-taxed voter will not likely vote for them.  The public does not want any more austerity – we have had 9 years of austerity and that is more than enough.

The IMF does not want austerity because they would rather give money to countries with natural resources that can be privatised.  Our natural resources are mainly our people, and slavery was abolished approximately 180 years ago.  So who wants austerity?  The only one that wants Barbadians to suffer through an austerity based programme appears to be satan.

Solutions Barbados is the only political party with a non-austerity plan.  The meeting’s participants were desperate for a non-austerity plan, and most were aware of the Solutions Barbados plan.  The time has now come to ask why no one mentioned this most obvious solution, or an improvement of it, at the meeting.

I believe that the Government, Private Sector and Union representatives honestly want to bring quick relief to Barbadians who are suffering from political failures.  The solutions to these failures, and their implementation plans, have been published on SolutionsBarbados.com over two years ago.  But the meeting’s participants seemed temporarily blinded to them.  The only reason left to explain this blindness is spiritual.  The solution to that sort of blindness is also spiritual.

Pray Barbados.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

The Caswell Franklyn Column – Unions and Private Sector March to Bring Down Government

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

On Monday, July 24, 2017 two days before the 80th anniversary of the 1937 riots, an estimated 20,000 people peacefully protested against the Government, by staging a march through Bridgetown.

The organisers claimed ostensibly that the protest was designed to force Government to meet and hear the views of labour and the private sector, in relation to the massive 400% increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy, with a view to reducing that imposition.

The unions involved and the private sector agency made it quite clear that they were not seeking the downfall of the Government. My question therefore is, why not? Since they are taking the country along with them to state of continuous suffering. I take my guidance from the Book of Matthew, which states at chapter 5 verse 30:

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

This administration has surely offended thee and should be cut off. I do not know of any sane person who could honestly hold the view that this Government is performing well, and would want them to continue.

By now this administration and their most ardent supporters should accept that there is one skill set required to win elections, but yet another set of skills is required to manage the country after the victory. The members of the Democratic Labour Party have clearly shown that they are in possession of the skills necessary to win elections. On the other hand, the people who won the last elections have demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that they are devoid of the care, diligence and skill to successfully manage the affairs of this country.

Since they have come to office, their trial and error policies have impoverished the people of this country to a previously unknown extent, while for the most part, the characteristically docile Barbadians elected to suffer in silence. All along Government was aided and abetted in their mismanagement by the leadership of the major trade unions that appeared to be aligned to the DLP. The private sector, even though bothered by the state of the economy, kept quiet as long as they were making money.

It would appear that the unions have forgotten their role but a mass exodus of members has spurred them to action, to give the impression that they are finally working on behalf of their membership. More importantly for the unions’ survival, they needed to stem the outward flow of disaffected members.

The primary duty of trade unions is to look out for the best interests of their membership. And I daresay, the best interests of union members dictate that trade unions should be in the vanguard of any movement to improve the lives of their membership, even if it means removing a government that is as incompetent as the present administration.

Fortunately for the Government, when the unions flexed their atrophied muscles on their own, they were only able to muster approximately 399 persons. They were given a lifeline when the private sector agency joined in with them to organise the record-breaking march.

As a trade unionist, even though over 20,000 people took to the streets, I am ashamed that the private sector that traditionally treats workers with scant respect resorted to bribing and threatening workers to march, and worse yet, the unions went along with it.

Don’t be in any doubt about my position. I firmly believe that this administration is not fit for purpose and should leave office immediately. Nothing short of a national strike would suffice until the Government leaves office, even if that would result in some short term inconvenience for the people.

However, I must caution the unions that they must be careful who they choose as bedfellows. It is prophesied that a time will come when the lion shall lie down with the lamb. But I must warn them that the time has not yet come and they are in danger of becoming lamb chops.

A Failure of the Social Partnership | Government Out of Step With Civil Society | Time for Workers to Rise Up!

We are well aware of the position of TNT as provider of corporate capital to Bajan business. We even wrote a paper about it. What you are doing however is helping us make our point. BS&T was largely controlled by the Mutual. Any undervaluation was a direct thief of workers interests. And the Mutual itself was owned by workers.

The larger point is that an historical opportunity was lost in the period around the early 1990’s. When you fail to learn from history you will be forced to repeat it. The only difference is that workers are not the owners/controllers of capital they could have been. But we continue to have feckless governments, unable to read what’s happening in the world and enslaved by self-imposed limited options.

Pachamama

During his post-march presentation, President of the NUPW Akanni McDowall to tens of thousands of Barbadians from all walks of life promised that the NUPW will sit with the other partners in the days ahead to plan next steps. It is always interesting to observe when labour and capital come together with shared objectives. In the Barbados context it is all the more interesting given the touted tripartite arrangement which consist of the  private sector, government and union. Clearly today’s demonstration is a blow to the social partnership that was born out of similar economic challenge of the early 90s.

We agree with Pachamama that representatives of workers need to change the narrative at the negotiating table in Board rooms across Barbados. We need to change the mindset that we have to be takers and not makers. It cannot be about percentage of wage increase, paternity benefits, tweaking grievance procedures, demanding coping subsidies and so on.  If the human element is promoted as the most important resource in any enterprise the owners of capital should have no problem agreeing to employees having a stake in the enterprise. Very few companies in Barbados have created employee stock ownership plans. Although Pachamama shares the view that the opportunity was lost in the early 90s to sensitize the Barbados market for workers to become significant owners of capital, it is never too late to redress.

The successful collaboration between the four largest trade unions and the Barbados Private Sector Association exposed the weakness of the social partnership. The union and private sector groups will always be treated as lesser stakeholders at the table when this government is present.  A prime minster gifted with leadership skills will mask the flaw.  When BWU withdrew from CTUSAB it weakened the optics of the social partnership because BWU as the largest trade union at the time did not need the clout of other trade unions to demonstrate power. It must be stated that the private sector in Barbados has seen a shift in the ownership mix in the last decade.

Is it possible that the union and private sectors can see more utility in forming a partnership bloc with the objectives being workers able to negotiate a share of the capital? In return the private sector is guaranteed greater productivity? A win win for Barbados?