BLP’s way forward
The Barbados Labour Party intends to reprofile this country’s debt to free up substantial cash over the short term.
That is how it intends to get the money to fix the South Coast and Bridgetown sewage plants, pay for students at the University of the West Indies, acquire buses for the Transport Board, solve garbage collection problems, launch a major road repair programme, and expand the Accident & Emergency Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
This would also make up for the revenue loss from the abolition of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).
Reprofiling debt is essentially extending debt repayments to allow more time to repay loans, giving Government access to a large chunk of the near $500 million in interest presently paid annually, and allowing time to restore economic growth while getting its debt obligations under control.
This is one of several points in the party’s mini manifesto, The People’s Manifesto: Building The Best Barbados Together, a synopsis of its 70-page manifesto – limited copies of which were also distributed last night at the BLP’s public meeting in Kingsland, Christ Church.
The five top issues the party identifies – apart from debt reprofiling, cutting out wastage and stamping out corruption – are rebuilding Barbados’ foreign reserves to 15 weeks of import coverage.
Barbadians will be allowed to hold their foreign currency earnings in local bank accounts, while legislation will also be passed to stop the Central Bank from “printing money”.
The BLP will also reduce threats to the financial services sector by enacting laws by December 2018 to remove Barbados from the lists of jurisdictions facing sanctions from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union. It will also extend to all Barbadians a foreign currency tax credit on foreign exchange earnings.
It plans to abolish the NSRL and road tax. The latter will be replaced by a more equitable tax on petroleum products, while VAT will go back to 15 per cent within 18 months and tax clearance certificates will be repealed. Those who paid the municipal solid waste tax imposed in 2014 will be given a tax credit over time.
The Bees pledge to put money back into people’s pockets by providing a cost of living allowance to civil servants if negotiations on salaries and benefits are not completed with the trade unions within three months of being elected. Non-contributory pension will go from $155 to $225 per week and will maintain relativity to contributory pension.
The minimum wage will be increased from $6.25 per hour to $8 per hour.
Measures will be taken to reduce the number of foreclosures by working with banks to establish a Troubled Mortgage Relief Programme. The reverse tax credit of $1 300 for people earning less than $18 000 will be paid; funeral grants will go up by $500; and a programme to eliminate the 5 000 pit toilets in the island, by using small contractors and community-based businesses, will be implemented.
The BLP also proposes to improve democratic processes by introducing referenda on major national issues such as fixed dates for elections, term limits for the Prime Minister, republican status for the country, and the legalising of marijuana.
On the International Monetary Fund, the party said it “will do everything humanly and lawfully possible to save the Barbados dollar”. It reminded that the IMF was established to lend to member countries in challenging circumstances. (SP)