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EDITORIAL – Lifelines to our recovery

marciadottin, [email protected]

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AS IN ANY CRISIS there are always several solutions but what is required is to be able to choose the correct one. The present economic situation facing Barbados is no different. Where is our think tank and where are our implementers? Are we waiting for a divine solution?There can be no question Government, in the circumstances, has done much in its power to do without inflicting hardship and pain on the citizens. Yet we remain embattled by the thorny issues which threaten to engulf us and the frightening consequences of our own failure to right the ship post haste.Discarding some of the bitter pills available to us, there yet remains a few steps which, in any event, must be taken if, as a developing country, we must achieve real progress. Despite years of adopting, lukewarmly, the notion of the urgency for Public Sector Reform we have achieved little. Despite the writings of the Auditor General in his annual reports, we have achieved little. Transparency and accountability have found no anchor nor has there been any example of the price of indiscretions including leakages of funds.Our country faces the realism of heavy debt and dwindling revenues. The former leaves us precariously poised while the latter continues to tighten its vicelike grip on our manoeuvrability. Yet we seem content to announce from year to year the size of outstanding monies – fines, fees and taxes – which remain unpaid and uncollected in respect of charges which by their very nature provide levers of recoverability but which, one understands, are considered politically unsafe to pursue. We refer to land and property tax, national insurance payments, vehicle taxes, income tax, registration and licensing fees and value added tax.How is it possible for a country with little or no resources other than human, heavily dependent on tourist receipts and incomings from a fledgling service industry, afford such leeway in the collection of its receivables?Several of the above impositions are enforceable and recoverable by legal remedies but their collection, in addition to being protracted are allowed to reach such high amounts that they are periodically waived. Here lies the answer to part of our revenue affliction, namely, the unsatisfactory collection of revenues and taxes which, if reversed and enhanced, could lead to a reduction in or abandonment of other irritating and unrewarding taxes and ultimately a decline in the cost of living.Overall, one gets a picture of a stubborn effort at revenue collection somewhat insulated from consequential strategies, overseen by the office of the Auditor General, which despite annual protestations, remains bereft of teeth to enforce breaches in procedure or even the occurrence of cash shortages.  Forty one cars are known to have exited the Port without payment of relevant duties whilst the school meals department has been charged for goods not received or in excess of known annual consumption. Furthermore, due to lax documentation some suppliers have been known to obtain duty free goods to which they were not entitled. Are we truly revenue starved?