Politics aside, unless I have missed something, there is very little in the budget that will stimulate either domestic or international tourism. Maybe the ability to withdraw up to 15 per cent of registered retirement plans at the lower interest rate of 16.5 per cent tax rate will free a few dollars to encourage a Staycation break or entice more locals into our restaurants, but apart from that, what am I missing?
From a small business perspective the tax amnesty is welcome but the damage has already been done. For nearly three decades we have paid our land tax demands on time to obtain the 10 per cent early payment discount.
Not now however and the reason is simple. We have not received a due and payable VAT refund for over three years and while we have made repeated verbal and written requests to the Barbados Revenue Authority to contra the tens of thousands owed to us against the land tax dues, we still have not received any form of response. Yet another Government department that feels it has any obligation, whatsoever, to reply and be held accountable by the taxpayer.
The alternative open to us, was to take out an unsecured loan at the prohibitive interest rate of 12.25 percent annual interest rate to pay the land tax demand. So in reality we have lost the benefit of the early payment discount and are still faced with the daunting task of trying to find the additional (in our case) $8,000 plus that was added to our land tax bill to replace the Municipal Waste Tax.
It seems almost incredulous that the administration does not seem to understand that we as a destination are becoming less and less competitive in the global tourism market. Surely, they understand that despite the increased number of visitor arrival this has not directly related to a proportional increase in spending.
Another ambiguous area is ‘Amendment to the Tourism Development Act to allow the tourism sector to access waivers according to their capacity’.
Does this effectively mean, once again, the chosen few will only benefit, rather than impel the entire industry into growth?
And staying on the subject of the ‘mighty’ dominating the sector, it surely cannot go unnoticed by our local media, at least up until submitting this column, almost at the drop of a hat, that 600 employees can be dismissed on the pretence of upgrading a branded hotel property within the region with almost no accountability at all.
According to the Minister of Labour in that territory it is claimed that officials at the affected property ‘were demanding that the 600-plus employees they made redundant sign a deed of release in order to receive their redundancy package’ and describing this ‘move as illegal’.
In an article published by Tribune 242, The President of the union involved has now filed a lawsuit claiming ‘union bashing’ and ‘unfair dismissal’ Adding that he was ‘very, very disappointed in the government for allowing foreigners to come to the Bahamas and treat Bahamians like dirt’.
Of course, it could never happen on Barbados.