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BLP COLUMN: Uneasy Christmas

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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From all appearances, Christmas 2010 is turning out to be more stressful for Barbadians than any other period since the early 1990s when the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) inflicted upon us the infamous economic holocaust, featuring an eight per cent pay cut, mass layoffs and general turmoil across the society and economy.  
We have had the misfortune of being forced to begin the current Christmas from December 1, having to suffer the painful and money-sapping effects of a widespread 2.5 per cent increase in VAT plus a 50 per cent per litre hike in the excise tax on gasoline.
And as if those are not punishing enough, there are the depressing prospects of further devastation to come in the New Year with the abolition of tax-free allowances for entertainment, travelling, savings with credit unions, and investment in mutual funds. Then there will be more costly fees charged for services at the Immigration Department and Transport Board bus fares, and the imposition of a dispensing fee for prescriptions filled at private pharmacies.
Then while some people had been trying to make the public believe that they were being given some special favour of temporary relief by some businesses opting to absorb the 2.5 per cent VAT increase for the Christmas shopping period, one of Barbados’ leading businessmen brought us back to the harsh reality of practical everyday life when he warned that the full and telling impact of the higher VAT had not yet been felt in the pockets of consumers.  
Said Mr Andy Armstrong, president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “It will only be when people start to feel it in their pocketbooks . . . there are going to be effects and I expect in the New Year we will see what those effects will be.”  
 All of this has helped to create a most unsettling environment in which the public will this year be asked to celebrate Christmas which is generally and traditionally treated as a time for marking the birth of Jesus Christ and extending associated goodwill and fellowship to one’s fellow man in a relaxed and all-embracing manner.
No wonder then that people all over Barbados are now not only crying out about the savage increases they are already being called upon to pay since the draconian Budget of Finance Minister Chris Sinckler, but are downright worried about what they will be called upon to face in the immediate coming months and beyond.
This lamentable situation also leaves a frustrating and bitter taste in their mouths when they vexingly repeat to one another that the DLP had wrongfully seduced them into voting it into office in 2008 on the grounds that as a new Government, bringing down “high prices will be Job No.1, Job No. 2 and Job No. 3”.   
To make matters worse for persons worried about Barbados’ future, people are concerned that all the suffering and deprivation imposed on them by the 2010 Budget might be in vain when Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was quoted in THE NATION of November 25 as noting that his administration did not know if the measures as outlined by Minister Sinckler would be successful, but that the intention was to ensure that this happened.
If the DLP admits that it lacks confidence in its own Budget, no wonder the public lacks confidence too.
• Beresford Leon Padmore is a pseudonym for the Barbados Labour Party.

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