Chairman of the BPSA, Charles Herbert making remarks during the panel discussion. Looking on are (left) Chairman of the BHTA, Roseanne Myers and President of the Barbados Economic Society, Shane Lowe.

Budget receives praise

Charles Herbert, Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) has described the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, presented by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley on Monday in the House of Assembly as “A clever Budget”.

He made the comments as he participated in a panel discussion yesterday morning at the Post-Budget Breakfast event hosted by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and PwC at the Hilton Hotel.

Further, giving his take on the presentation, an upbeat Herbert was adamant that the Budget was not one of austerity as has been suggested by some persons. In fact, he contended that almost everybody in this society is going to have more income in the coming year than they had before, with the promised removal of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).

He made the remarks while telling the business community representatives present, that he has given the Social Partners the commitment that merchants will change their prices to reflect the abolition of NSRL, and that they will demonstrate the changes to the public. He warned that merchants’ failure to do this would be to break that “social pact”. Herbert made the point as he acknowledged that given the varied nature of businesses in this country, all will not be able to effect those price changes at the same time.

“The one thing that will make this a Budget of austerity for the man on the street, is if we do not reflect the reduction in NSRL… this is something that needs be passed directly back to the
population,” he said.

Herbert added, “By the time NSRL comes off and the public sector gets a wage increase and the pensioners get a wage increase, there’s going to be more income to cover the extra costs of sanitation than there is [now]. So this is not for our population an austerity budget, I can’t believe the labour movement called it such. But it is, one where the burden has been transferred so far to tourism and notice given to creditors,” he said.

He made the point while referring to Government’s decision last week to suspend debt payments to external creditors and the Monday’s announcement that new taxes and fees will be imposed on the tourism sector. In respect of the latter, he admitted that the heaviest lifting and heaviest risks have been put on tourism and they have the potential to dampen arrivals. Herbert told business executives in earshot that he believes that tourism is just the first sector that will be asked to do heavy lifting and that the others will be asked to play their part as the country seeks to get back on a strong growth trajectory.

“Remember this is not a Budget for a whole year, this is phase one; we’ve been promised that there will be a phase two which is the restructuring of the debt. So we haven’t just moved forward by $180 million, there’s still that to come and we’ve been promised Central Government and State-owned Enterprise reform. If anything we have been given a signal already with what’s happened to BTMI and SSA and the QEH, that there is a serious effort to change what our State-owned Entreprises cost this country. So I think for me – I am going to believe those promises for now. I am going to believe that I am going to be actively, that we are going to actively involved in that discussion, and I think for the next six months at least, we owe it all, to really work as if this is going to happen,” he maintained.

BPSA Chairman’s comments came as he spoke of the improved relationship between the Government and the other Social Partners. On that note, he pledged the private sector’s commitment to
work with the new Government.

“We have a Government now that the first Monday in office, the first item on her [Prime Minister Mottley] agenda was to meet with the Social Partnership and we didn’t meet for an hour, we met for three hours, and in those three hours we did more than in any eight-hour meeting than we did with the previous government. That was the first of four meetings and the paradigm has changed… Take the measures aside, we have been signalled that once again we are going to be seen as active participants in where Barbados goes and the challenge is on us to grasp it,” he added. (JRT)

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