EDITORIAL: It tastes awful, but it just might work
HE?DIDN’T?FREEZE?WAGES and he swore putting thousands of people out of work was not on his agenda. But he did come straight, as former Central Bank of Barbados Governor Sir Courtney Blackman said he should.
In fact, our new Minister of Finance vowed that under his watch there would be nothing but the truth on the economy. Yesterday afternoon he dared to be real; as real as he could be. It was clear to all that we are in deep crisis and that it requires all of us to get us all out.
Minister Sinckler, delivering his first Budget, almost free of the jitters, dared to raise bus fares. This has been a proposal that over the years has been on, then off, on again, and off once more. Yesterday Mr Sinckler brought it very much on.
And not by any means is he unreasonable, for while public transport is essential, Government cannot continue to so subsidise the Transport Board that it is forever a drain on the public coffers.
Bus fare from $1.50 to $2 in the circumstances is understandable, and the Government will expect the increase to yield $8.4 million in its stabilisation efforts.
The increase in VAT will be less warmly embraced. At 17.5 per cent from 15, that will be a stretch for many a householder. But Mr Sinckler doesn’t believe God puts more on a man than he is able to bear, and so we may have to thank the Almighty that the Minister of Finance is only burdening us with increased VAT from December 1 for just 18 months – from which he hopes to rake in $124 million.
We look forward to the minister’s review at the end of the coming year.
Tugging at the pockets of the middle income earner more so will be the elimination of the tax-free travel and entertainment allowances, as well as the elimination of tax-free allowances for savings with credit unions and investment in mutual funds.
Presumably 2010 claims on these “luxuries” will be the last – for some time.
When all these are taken into account, with the temporary increase in VAT, the burden being placed upon us by Mr Sinckler may be tipping toward the unbearable for some of us.
At best we have been prescribed the proverbial necessary bitter medicine.
It tastes awful; but Mr Sinckler says it will work.
Today Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister of Finance Owen Arthur will speak to Mr Sinckler’s proposals, offering us a different perspective, no doubt in mixed tones of economist and politician.
We wait impatiently.
In the meantime we must ourselves review carefully and more fully what the Minister of Finance has put before us to see how workable indeed is the notion of getting ourselves, by our own devices,
out of the global economic mess that surrounds us.