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EDITORIAL: Hoping Budget brings more joy than pain


EDITORIAL: Hoping Budget brings more joy than pain

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“I may not remember your name, but trust me, I know the face…” – Calypsonian Marvay.

WE REMEMBER his name and we also know his face. The name is Christopher Sinckler and the face is undoubtedly that of the Minister of Finance.

Thanks Marvay, but no forgetting this fellow.

And we expect him to make himself, his face and his name well known, for better or for worse, in the coming weeks.

Now that Crop Over is decidedly over, you may take centre stage, Mr Minister.

The 2016 Barbados calendar of events naturally highlights the jubilee celebration of the country’s attainment of independence. This comes to a crescendo on the November 30 anniversary date.

Before that date, and after the highly successful annual Crop Over festivities, we are likely to face a dose of two of reality. From all accounts of history and tradition, the Ministry of Finance delivers a financial statement and budgetary proposals to the people of Barbados during the interregnum between the Crop Over Festival and Independence Day.

Both the 2011 and 2013 Budgets were presented in the middle of August. There wasnone in 2014, thus the 2015 presentation came in June, as did the 2012 version. In recent years, therefore, August is the outside date chosen by this finance ministry incumbent.

If June is too soon. Then August we must.

As we emerge from the blurring effect of a robust Crop Over festival, the question on the minds of many taxpayers will go beyond the guessing game about a prospective date for the annual Budget, and will centre on whether the content of the minister’s contribution will serve to spoil the elation over our end-of-crop merriment. Further, we may justifiably ask, will it dampen the jubilation over our jubilee commemoration that is just over 100 days away?

We trust that the ultimate experience will surpass even our most ardent hope. Barbadians will be anticipating that the minister’s exposition adds to the joy of our momentous festivities this year.

But realistically, somewhere between that expectation and the fulfilment of the Budget speech is an economic actuality that has to be faced, sooner or later. And the minister knows it.

Sinckler’s 2016 statement will be circumscribed by macro factors like the attainment of a sustained growth path, the size of the fiscal deficit following the 2015 tax measures, and the state of our foreign reserves.

We await the most recent data on these critical areas of our economy.

But while waiting, many Barbadians wouldhave been buoyed by Sinckler’s promise, made in April, that a tax ease was an option his ministry was reviewing. He said that in the light of the heavy administrative costs involved, he expected he would be able to restore some of the personal income tax allowances he took away in recent years. He could have offered a more politically astute reason for this decision, but at least his answer was honest.

However, it must be stated that following the promise held out by Sinckler, the governor of the Central Bank, Dr DeLisle Worrell, who, the record shows, gets his way on these matters, not only promised the imposition of more taxation, but also said for the first time that measures would have to be put in place to protect the reserves in this year’s Budget.

So whose name and whose face will we remember? Dr Worrell’s or Mr Sinckler’s?