EDITORIAL: Sinckler delivers mixed bag for Budget
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler yesterday delivered what might best be described as a mixed budget that underscored the reality that Barbadians have been facing tough times for the past seven years.
The presentation also indicates the economic downturn which has been severely affecting the country is still steering us down, hence the measures to protect the country’s foreign reserves and the fixed exchange rate.
At this early stage the true impact of this budget is still difficult to determine and will only become apparent in the weeks ahead as the fine points are closely scrutinised.
It was a tightrope that Mr Sinckler walked, especially given public fears that there would have been a range of new taxation. In the end he settled on some revenue generating and some cost-cutting measures in an effort to get the economy growing at a much faster rate. But this is where the challenges begin.
One immediate concern is the impact on the cost of living of the new tax on imports.
It will be particularly interesting to see how the cuts by ministries will be effected and the timelines. The fact remains that Government’s fiscal deficit is simply too high while the public debt must not be allowed to continue its upward spiral. These are issues which we hope MPs from both sides of the aisle will address during their presentations and that Mr Sinckler himself speaks to in more detail during his wrap-up of the debate. It is an uncomfortable and untenable situation.
We expect there will be much debate about the national social responsibility levy, given the desire to see an improvement in the public health system and care of the environment. Certainly Minister of Health John Boyce and Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe must enlighten the public during their presentations in the coming days on the nitty-gritty of this plan. There is an anxiety to have effective primary health and waste disposal services.
The issue of the collection of outstanding tax revenues may also turn out to be another challenge. It will be interesting to see how much of the outstanding taxes, whether VAT, income tax or land taxes, will be realised from taxpayers, many of whom are already cash-poor.
The increase in non-contributory pension is welcome as is the injection to the Student Revolving Loan Fund, even though the root problem here must still be addressed. The relief coming for temporary public officers by way of confirmation in their jobs is long overdue, but the unions which advocated for these appointments must demand that the beneficiaries offer good customer service and higher productivity.
Implementation of the budgetary proposals has always been a challenge as would be realised by reviewing outstanding measures from last year, the previous year, and the years before that. Mr Sinckler has to ensure that this year it is going to be different, if the proceeds from his measures are to be fully realised.