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Jul 20, 2018

Chamber to P.M., “The seemingly ‘insoluble’ is rather very much ‘soluble’.”

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry admonished the Government back in June for the exceedingly high fuel taxes. Prime Minister Barrow later responded saying that taxes weren’t going down. In the same letter to Chamber President Nikita Usher, the P.M. wrote that a cut-down on fuel taxes would cause a hit in G.O.B.’s budget and would have to look elsewhere for cutbacks.  He suggested that G.S.T., environmental and business tax may have to increase should G.O.B. reduce taxes. But the P.M., agreed to meet with the chamber and asked for an outline of proposed solutions to bring relief to the private sector without tapping into government’s revenue base. Well, on July tenth, the Chamber responded to the Prime Minister. In that letter, the Chamber highlighted that most public entities were not submitting their reports to the Auditor General, and those that did, show massive expenditures. In addition to this, the chamber pointed out that more than ninety-million dollars are owing to G.S.T. and Income Tax departments and not much effort is being made to collect those monies. Usher discusses the chamber’s proposed fuel and tax administration reforms. Here’s a look at some of the points discussed.

 

Nikita Usher, President, B.C.C.I.

Nikita Usher

“When the law speaks to every department providing for you reports audited for the auditor general, the last report that we seen was just two departments out of thirty-three and those two departments alone could not account for almost sixty million dollars. Imagine if you have then,  all the other departments doing the same. So, we have not addressed the fundamental issue in-house, why can’t all departments provide what is required by the auditor general; account for what you have received. If you have overspent, you have to account for it. We have to do it in business. If you are over spending then, that means your expenditures are rising way above your revenue base. So, to cover those expenditures that keep rising and rising and rising, you have to be taxing because you have to increase your revenue base and the easiest way to do so is that you have to then come to fuel tax. Why not reverse the trend then, why not look in- house and see why do we have such expenditures that are exceedingly higher than what was originally budgeted for? In the Prime Minister’s response, he looked at us and said, ‘well, I will have to fire three thousand base workers.’ But the Chamber has not been one that has championed for that because the private sector as weak as it is today can’t absorb three thousand people coming on for employment. Where will we put them? However, it is time for us to address the issue of pension age. Why can’t we adjust pension now – we are at fifty-five in Government. The arm just move from forty-five now and I don’t know if they went to fifty or some other change that they made. But most other countries are at sixty. Why can’t we address the issue of pension being contributory? Right now a big chunk of Government’s expenses is private cost. But in the private sector it is a contributory pension scheme; you contribute, I contribute. So, the cost is less on GOB. But these are decisions that we seem to be pushing it, kicking the bucket down the road and these are some of the cost structures that I am talking about. Why can’t we have a freeze on employment? I don’t even know if Government knows its list of employees. Is it five thousand? Is it is fifteen thousand? Is it twenty (thousand)? We don’t know. And when you ask you just get floating numbers. Can there not be a decision that we freeze? These are some of the points that the Chamber is saying to you that you can fix in house. Now that is looking at the expenditure side, and the revenue side that we have to look at as well.”

 

The Chamber now awaits a date to meet with the Prime Minister.

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