Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EDITORIAL: Budget of give and take

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MINISTER OF FINANCE Chris Sinckler was wily in the way in which he balanced the giveaways and the takeaways offered in Tuesday’s Financial Statement and Budgetary proposals.

This artful strategy has had the effect of creating a feel-good factor over promises down the road that he probably hopes will render insignificant the immediate pain that will be felt at counters in banks as well as cash registers in shops, following his tax impositions.

By both the use of the conscience-grabbing title “social responsibility tax” and the commitment for its use in two specific areas of major disquiet, health care and garbage collection, the minister has escaped blame for what will become an increased burden on all who pay for goods and services in this country.

An examination of the two sets of revenue-raising proposals suggests that he has brazenly embarked on a takeaway-now, giveaway-later plan because the majority of his revenue-raising measures have immediate effect, while those channels which offer ease to citizens are more distant at best and at worst, just good ideas.

The approbation he has received for the appointment of temporary public servants, the increased pensions for both non-contributors as well as contributors, and indeed to creation of duty-free zones, are in the future, while the bank assets tax that will certainly be passed on to customers and the social responsibility tax will have instantaneous effect. Indeed, the former is being assessed retroactively since it will be done on assets as at April 1, 2016.

The proposed appointment of temporary public servants with three or more years deserves the praise given by trade unions and others, but it is a process that will go through a working committee to advise Cabinet as to “procedures, methods and legal requirements”. This does not sound imminent.

Non-contributory pensioners have long been overlooked. They must feel relieved. But they have a six-week wait before they will be able to buy that elusive chicken sandwich from a fast food restaurant. The contributory pensions, however, have been told that increases may come via the National Insurance Scheme making its own determination.

No dates and no deadlines.

Manufacturers have been promised assistance by way of reimbursable grants of up to $50 000, but again, the minister advised that his ministry and stakeholders “will be seeking to craft a proposal for the development of a quality incentive scheme”. Given the way committees sometimes work, we are left to wonder if these incentives will be realised.

The attractive concept of creating duty-free zones for shoppers to obtain benefits is laudable, but since there is a stipulation that transactions must be made in United States dollars, which locals are not permitted to carry, we wonder where is the benefit.

There are more questions than answers.

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