Give workers a break!

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While the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is “heartened” by the country’s favourable economic outlook, President Verla DePeiza is pleading with Government to use some of its gains to upgrade critical social services, pursue economic growth and safeguard working-class consumers with a basket of protected goods.

In a statement released hours after Tuesday’s third quarter Central Bank report, DePeiza expressed disappointment with the fact that although Government’s revenue had increased through heavy taxation, no economic growth had been recorded.

While Central Bank Governor Cleviston Haynes predicted moderate growth for 2020, economic growth remained flat throughout 2019 he predicted that any positive forecast for the new year would be heavily dependent on tourism and investment activity.

“The economy grew in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The fact that there has been no growth in 2018 and 2019 is worrisome,” said DePeiza.

“This is compounded by the stark reality of an increase in the unemployment rate from 9.2 per cent to 10.8 per cent; a decline in real economic activity; price increases in transport, utilities and food despite falling international fuel prices. It shows that the pain of the structural adjustment is being borne by the lower and middle-income brackets. This all translates to a harder life for the average Barbadian when compared to the last year.”

In response to the heavier tax burden placed on the Barbadian working-class, DePeiza pointed to the need for “immediate” job creation and a return to a basket of protected groceries such as existed under the previous government’s National Social Responsibility Levy regime.

During yesterday’s economic review, the Central Bank governor reported Government had saved approximately $64 million in transfers due to revenue generated through the Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC), Airline Travel and Development Levy and the Health Service Levy.

This, he said, resulted in an ease of the pressure on Government’s finances.

DePeiza however argued that in addition to the need for an urgent revenue generation policy, gains from the GSC and other state-owned enterprises needed to be urgently accounted for and suggested they should never have been shifted from Government’s Consolidated Fund.

She also stated that with Government’s increased revenue, she hopes funds would be applied to social needs such as the acquisition of buses and garbage trucks.

“The funds for the SSA, which provide an essential social service – now depend on how much is collected rather than a dedicated amount committed from the Consolidated Fund. Is this what Barbadians really want?” she asked.

According to the DLP President, while off budget financing made Government’s balance sheets appear more favourable, it was also distorting the country’s “actual” financial position. kareemsmith@barbadostoday.bb

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