EDITORIAL: Bajans bracing for new tax
FROM TODAY, Barbadians will be looking on and waiting with bated breath in anticipation of any price increases that will take effect with the introduction of the National Social Responsibility Levy.
The levy was announced last month by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler during the Financial Statement And Budgetary Proposals. There will be a two per cent tax on all imports except for manufacturing, agriculture and tourism sectors, in an effort to raise $142.1 million to finance health care through a national health insurance fund, as well as allow the Sanitation Services Authority to fully restock its fleet.
There is nary a doubt in the minds of consumers that they will be the ones bearing the brunt of any increases that will follow. However, talk of a sudden increase has been dismissed by Mr Sinckler as hot air, as he lambasted some companies for advertising they would be raising their prices from today because of the new tax.
We applaud the minister for chiding those who may be planning a sleight of hand. We urge him to go further than just sounding the caution. Businesses found “guilty” of applying the tax on old stock must be held accountable.
Still, even with this strong chiding from the minister, consumers will be bracing for the increase which will no doubt put a further dent in their pockets.
Some business people have already put Barbadians on notice that any increases brought on by the levy will be passed on to consumers. We have heard from the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Eddy Abed who said Barbadians can expect a greater rise in retail costs than the two per cent. There is no doubt, too, that any increases will be first felt in the supermarkets.
Some would argue that this levy could not have come at a worse period given the challenges so many are facing just to make ends meet. Food is one of the basic necessities of life and unfortunately if Mr Abed’s predictions are right, then Barbadians will be forced to budget even more to ensure they can properly feed their families.
While the reasons for the levy are well-intentioned, average Barbadians will be the ones to deal with any fall out. As such, it is about time that the island has a consumer lobby that can forcefully plead the cases of citizens when they feel they are being dealt an unfair hand.
Currently, the lone voice in the wilderness continues to be that of Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt, director general of the Barbados Consumers Research Organisation.
Others must join this advocate in the work he is doing to protect the rights of consumers. There is definitely merit in the saying that there is strength in numbers.