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CRUEL crying out for relief

Sanka Price

CRUEL crying out for relief

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As you are taking submissions from the various interest groups in preparation for this year’s Budget, I would like to humbly submit a few proposals on behalf of those citizens who, as independent individuals, have no entity to speak for them.
As they are all citizens reeling under economic licks, I call them CRUEL.
Basically CRUEL is made up of law-abiding, God-fearing Barbadians who are crying out for relief from the economic blows inflicted by your first Budget last November.
They are not what the Prime Minister would call detractors. They are educated, hard-working people who have invested in mortgages, with some having small businesses; but most are professionals who are making a worthy contribution to this country’s development and feel they have a right to be heard.
You would be pleased to know that unlike many of those groups you have already heard from, CRUEL has only two proposals for you to consider.
First, they would like the tax on their travel and entertainment allowances removed with immediate effect. And as this measure was imposed along with the removal of tax allowances for credit union savings and mutual fund investments, they would like a reversal of that too.
Mr Sinckler, as you are aware, those allowances were always tax-free because they were used by employers to boost the salaries of many middle-income earners.
It allowed this group to spend on houses and renovations to homes to keep the construction industry buoyant so that carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians, tilers, painters, landscapers and the vendors/food vans that feed them could earn a decent living to, in turn, support their families.
Aren’t these artisans some of the people your Government wants to become self-employed entrepreneurs? How can they get a hand up when those who have to support them have had their feet cut from under them?
That’s not all. Those tax-free allowances put more money in people’s hands to buy vehicles to keep the hundreds working in the insurance companies and the numerous mechanic and auto body repair garages employed.
This provided your Government with large sums for Road Tax, but more noteworthy than that was the spending on gasolene and diesel.
But since in one fell swoop you eliminated hundreds of dollars from monthly pay cheques, many no longer spend as they used to. That is why, sir, you are not collecting the revenue you anticipated on gasolene, for example.
Members of CRUEL now have to watch every dollar they spend.
And, Mr Sinckler, I am not talking about people who make $10 000 a month like the consultants your Government has hired despite criticizing the last administration for doing so. Those citizens referred to gross between $5 000 and $7 000 a month, but as their allowances were high, many of them are losing between $227 and $517 a month. They are getting less cash at a time when their electricity, food, medical and other bills are going through the roof.
That’s why CRUEL is crying out!
Mr Sinckler, you said these two measures were projected to raise  $34 million. CRUEL humbly suggests that if these measures were reversed the spending unleashed would generate activity in the economy to make more than that.
The other suggestion, sir, is the removal of VAT from all fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk and meats. And to ensure the importers don’t exploit this, put a quota on imports for each of these categories. In this way local farmers would be able to thrive, but not jack up their prices to hold consumers to ransom.
Likewise, the importers would be unable to flood the market to discourage local agricultural efforts. Of course, Government would have to closely monitor this to ensure compliance by all.
CRUEL feels making food items more affordable to help every last person in this country should be Government’s priority. If people can eat the most nutritious foods at a reasonable price, then they would be inclined to do this, and this in turn would help address the issue of people consuming a lot of salty, high-calorie foods, which promote chronic non-communicable diseases. So it would be a win-win situation for all Barbadians.
In conclusion, CRUEL notes that when you increased VAT from 15 to 17.5 per cent you said it was for 18 months. That timeline means you intend to remove it for the next general election. What guarantee does the public have that you would not slap it back on after your Government is returned to power?
Mr Sinckler, CRUEL suggests you forget the politics and show good faith by reversing your decision to tax the allowances, and by implementing changes to the VAT in the upcoming Budget so that your Government’s days will be long in the House of Assembly.
Sincerely yours, Citizens Reeling Under Economic Licks.