Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has promised that if it is felt that the Municipal Solid Waste Tax is causing undue hardship not contemplated by government at the moment of its imposition, then it will be revisited and modified.
He gave this assurance as he spoke with members of the media at the end of the 35th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) last Friday at the Sandals Grande Resort in Antigua.
Urging Barbadians not to become too agitated about the tax, Mr. Stuart said: ???After we???ve seen how it has been operating, [we] will revisit it. This has happened with all the taxes that any government has ever introduced.
???You impose the tax and then you see how it works, whether you have to revisit it to fine tune it as the case may be. So, I don???t think there???s any need for the agitation at the moment and for the disquiet because the tax has been imposed; we have to see how it works.???
He pointed out that the Minister of Finance has the power to exercise discretion where hardships are most evident, as obtains with the land tax.
???There are people who, if their land tax obligations are thought to be imposing undue hardship on them, [they] apply for relief and they get it. That will happen with the Municipal Solid Waste Tax, as well and we will see how it goes,??? he added.
The Prime Minister revealed that Government had asked the experts at the International Monetary Fund to review Barbados??? entire tax system with a view to making recommendations on the way forward.
???From time to time, you have to revisit your tax system to see if it is achieving the objectives you want it to achieve. And a very cursory reading of that report basically shows that there are quite a few things that we have to do with our tax system at the moment to make it more efficient. In fact, one of the questions that … Barbados has been asked, [is] ???why are you imposing taxes on people if you are going to take the tax with one hand and give them back with the other???? he remarked.
The Prime Minister stressed that governments did not ???sit down in secret conclave and impose taxes because governments are wicked, because they are actuated by malice, [or] they want to inflict hurt on people???.
???Governments tax because governments face challenges and if societies want high levels of governmental performance [then] high levels of governmental performance come at a price,??? he stated.
Noting that taxes had existed from time immemorial and the imposition of a tax was ???not a cause for rejoicing anywhere???, he said by introducing the tax Government had to look to see where the waste was being generated.
Mr. Stuart explained: ???You may find waste on barren lands, but the waste is not generated by barren lands; it is carried there. Waste is generated from households. And therefore, what we said [is that] we would limit the imposition of the tax to areas of land where there were houses. Now, when you get your land tax bill it has on two values ??? the value of your land by itself, which is called the site value – and the value of your land and the house together, which is called the improved value.
???If you are imposing a tax ??? impose the tax and get the revenue to do the things you want, but if you???re going to impose the tax and then [you give] this allowance and that exemption and that zero rating and so on, you are defeating the purpose of imposing the tax in the first place.???
The Prime Minister pointed out that solid waste in Barbados had been a challenge ???for some time??? and declared that the Sanitation Service Authority had become very expensive to run.
???Transfers to the Sanitation Service Authority have been getting larger and larger and we had to take a decision at some stage to confront the issue of solid waste management,??? he said.
He recounted that Barbados, through the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, had just hosted World Environment Day and was in the forefront of a crusade on the environment in the context of Small Island Developing States and climate change.
Mr. Stuart added it was against this background it was decided that the time was right for the imposition of this tax to help deal with some of the challenges posed by solid waste.