ONLY HUMAN: Time to act, Mr Prime Minister
By Sanka Price | Wed, April 13, 2011 - 12:01 AM
A GOVERNMENT of the people and for the people responds to the cries of its people.
It’s even more critical for governments to be responsive to their populace when prices of basic food commodities and every other cost associated with their day-to-day lives continue to increase while, at the same time, job security is becoming more uncertain.
In Barbados the public is impatiently waiting for the Government to say and do something definitive to demonstrate that they understand the pressure people face each day to cope with the several price increases that have taken place.
Every man and woman in this country expect that sign because they inherently believe that Government cares about them and will do whatever is possible to ease their burdens.
To date Government has said very little and done even less has been done in a tangible way to relieve the pressure of increased prices.
It’s as if speaking is thought of as pouring fuel on a raging fire rather than as seeking to dissipate a gathering storm.
The silence on this issue seems to be a general policy which involves saying as little as possible, and when you do speak, speaking as generally as possible about very little. That way no one can have anything much to criticize.
But not talking about this debilitating situation does not make it go away or in any way change it. If anything, silence and dithering only serve to make this problem worse.
As Government seems unwilling to provide leadership on this matter, it is left to the Press to empower the public to insist that their interests be served.
As a born and bred citizen of Barbados, I am therefore calling on the Government to move with haste to ease the burden of price increases on Barbadians.
Specifically, I am demanding that Government reduces the excise tax on gasoline and ease the costs to motorists at the pump, thereby reducing freight and services’ costs as well.
I return to this topic because on Monday two other Caribbean governments have seen the necessity to ensure their people pay the lowest price possible on gasoline in the prevailing circumstances.
President Bharrat Jagdeo announced that the excise tax on gasoline would be cut to 15 per cent – the second cut in the rate in less than four weeks. On March 18 his regime had slashed it by one third – from 30 per cent to 20 per cent.
That night the Bruce Golding government in Jamaica announced they would reduce the ad valorem tax on fuel (similar in this respect to our excise tax) from 15 to ten per cent. This reduction, which becomes effective tomorrow, will result in the lowering of petrol prices between JAM$4 and JAM$5 per litre at the pumps.
Both governments did it as they faced possible protest action – in Guyana from minibus operators and in Jamaica from the opposition political party.
Why can’t the Freundel Stuart-led Government reduce the excise tax here to cushion the impact of the increase in oil prices on domestic goods and services?
Must the Government be faced with possible protest action before it takes such positive action?
As explained, reducing the 50 per cent increase in the Excise Tax on gasoline is a viable option as this can be done by restructuring the mechanism for how it is calculated, while allowing Government to achieve its revenue target of $22.7 million as projected in the November 2010 Budget.
This is because that projection was arrived at based on the $2.44 per litre price of gas at that time. Gas is now $3.17 per litre – some 73 cents more than when the policy was calculated.
Based on my calculations, Government is now getting at least 48 cents of VAT per litre. If the price remains at what it is, and it won’t, then they would rake in at least $30 million this year.
Clearly the only reasonable course for a Government that cares about its people is to slash its take of excise tax – as one cannot tinker with VAT – to ensure prices at the pump drop. It’s time to act, Mr Prime Minister!
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