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As it calls on Government to put more money in the pockets of Barbadians by cutting taxes, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is sending a special plea for tax relief and special funding for hotels to help the tourism sector out of its slump. St Michael North-East MP Mia Mottley made the call at a press conference today, as she and Opposition spokesman on the economy Clyde Mascoll responded to the Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell’s third quarter economic review presented earlier this week. They spoke with one voice on the need to reduce the tax burden on Barbadians by returning Value Added Tax (VAT) to its 15 per cent rate, insisting that by doing so, people would have more money to spend to help spur economic growth. Noting that the country’s main foreign exchange earner, tourism, had performed dismally – declining by 3.7 per cent over the January to September period, according to Worrell – Mottley said there needed to be a rescue package for the vital sector as well. “We have to be able to walk and chew gum. At the same time that we put disposable income back into households and businesses, we have equally to have policies to drive tourism growth in this country again,” she said. The Opposition MP, therefore, called for a special concessionary loan fund for hotels and a lowering of taxes and rates which now burden them. “The sector is highly taxed and facing high utility rates, particularly in water and electricity, that make it difficult for them to see profits,” she said. Additionally, Mottley pointed out, Government needed to prepare for the loss of the 50,000 passengers who currently pass through Barbados to reach St Vincent every year, once that island’s Argyle International Airport is completed. She said that was important since those numbers help Barbados sustain airlift. Mottley said a marketing strategy was needed to encourage more airlift and arrivals to the island. “If tourism is now earning $500 million less than last year we have said to the Government ‘you need policies to address this; you cannot have tourism as your primary foreign exchange earner and not even spend $100 million to give the BTA [Barbados Tourism Authority] to do the job to bring the tourists here’,” she insisted.