Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Taxes and cuts


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Public servants, of which I was one, since I will be unemployed come September 1, have not had a pay increase in four or five years. Our salaries when compared to other small islands may seem good but we know that many months, our salaries are barely enough to get us by due to the high cost of living.
Most economies have been affected by the international economic recession. Some have come out of the recession while others are still struggling to deal with it and others use it as an excuse for their poor mismanagement of their finances. Over the last few years, we have had an increase in water rates and other utilities, food and also VAT, which was promised to last only 18 months. We tightened our belts, strapped our knees, laced our boots and collectively bore the burden our country was carrying.
For about two years, it was continuously communicated to us through the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank that the country’s economy is in good hands; there will be growth; the medium-term fiscal strategy is on course to generate needed revenue; our foreign reserves are enough; tourism arrivals and short to medium-term stay visitors were forecast to increase; there would be no sending home of civil servants and the list went on. Interestingly, I found it quite strange and alarming that many economists and others versed in financial and budgetary analysis were saying something completely opposite.
It was quite disappointing, that after months and months of hearing the Government say their policies and plans were working and forecast to bring improvement that they eventually had to face the public and accept that they were wrong. First it came through the governor, then through the minister during the Budget presentation. Was it that they honestly believed in their framework or they were just too arrogant to accept alternative suggestions?
In times of “screw up” and “mess up”, hard decisions must be made. The reduction of Government’s expenditure, especially in areas that aren’t critical to national stability or economic growth and increasing Government’s revenue were two areas where decisions were made.
Some of the hard decisions offered by our Government included;
1. Stop paying University of the West Indies (UWI) tuition fees for students.
2. Impose a solid waste tax
3. Cut subsidies to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH)
4. Freeze public sector hiring
5. Impose an additional tax on new vehicles
6. Cut public servants working days
I do not see the issues the country face from the eyes of a politician, neither am I privy to all the information they receive. I am just an ordinary Bajan commenting on what was presented.
We were all asked to share the burden, the discomforts and hardships for the greater good of this country. Yet it was deeply painful to hear Minister Donville Inniss say, “he has bills to pay and no one is cutting his salary”.
Minister, I don’t know if you are aware, but I also have bills to pay. Why am I to sacrifice but you are not?
I can’t understand why our governments continue to hold on to the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Yes, their main service is free to the public but realistically, how much revenue does it really earn? Is it a profitable investment? With the introduction of a new phone, Internet and cable TV provider to the market, offering affordable and top quality packages, CBC as well as other cable TV providers’ market share will decline. Why cut funding to the QEH but not to CBC? Which is more important?
As a parent, I would prefer to pay my child’s bus fare to school than to have my days cut or have additional taxes imposed on me. Without doing any research or calculations, I am sure that the total amount of bus fare I would pay in one school year for my child would be significantly less than the collective amount of money I would lose due to more taxes and a reduction in working days.
I intend to continue this article next week when, hopefully, I can touch on UWI, constituency councils and summer camps.
 • Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. Email coreyworrell@gmail.com

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