Is the green economy push enough?
WHAT SEEMS a bold push towards achieving a green economy, accompanied by attractive incentives for entrepreneurs and businesses to harness solar energy and reduce dependence on oil, was the central focus of the eagerly anticipated Financial Statement And Budgetary Proposals presented by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Those who expected giveaways, in view of an impending general election, would have been disappointed.
Instead Mr Sinckler was at pains to stress that the economy was headed in the right direction, to the extent that significant progress had been made in bringing down the fiscal deficit – so much so that results slightly better the targets set in the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy. But even so he could not be irresponsible.
Barbadians were instead treated to a mix of initiatives to boost agricultural and food production; propel hotel refurbishment; enhance tertiary education while reducing costs to Government; protect credit union savers; assist single mothers; and provide incentives to car dealers specializing in new vehicles.
The cries of those calling for the reinstatement of tax-free travel and entertainment allowances were rejected, with Mr Sinckler explaining there was no legal basis for these exemptions. However, he tried to satisfy expectations by raising the tax threshold and adjusting the tax rate, effectively giving those affected more money in their pay packs.
In his four-hour-four-minute-long presentation, Mr Sinckler also took the opportunity to address a number of controversial issues, like use of National Insurance Scheme (NIS) funds for investment. He declared the NIS could hold its own for another eight years from its current asset base.
We anticipate his proposal to capitalize the new Hotel Refurbishment, Energy Efficiency And Food Production Fund through the use of NIS funds, as well as accessing the monthly profits generated to pay for tertiary education, should prove to be a source of great discussion.
In Mr Sinckler’s reference to the proposal of the judicial manager of CLICO International Life, it is clear the Eastern Caribbean governments and Barbados must work closely together to effect a settlement, as individually it could be costly and prove detrimental to policyholders.
Whether these Budgetary Proposals go far enough to satisfy the various interests groups, or to enhance the re-election chances of the Government will be hotly debated. For sure the Opposition Barbados Labour Party will put its perspective on Mr Sinckler’s statement today.
We would not be surprised if it opts to present alternative proposals.