Even as the sitting Administration is listing the barrel initiative among its 2022 accomplishments, Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle says there is nothing for the Gaston Browne Government to feel proud about.
Instead of residents spending a dollar for their barrel – as the programme was intended upon introduction by the United Progressive Party (UPP) Administration – the cost for clearing it has increased by $9, Pringle points out.
Delivering the 2023 Throne Speech on Monday, February 20, Governor General Sir Rodney Williams noted that the barrel programme allows families to import essential items, such as toiletries and foodstuff, free of taxes.
The Government boasts that over 4,000 barrels were cleared during last year’s Christmas initiative, which, as usual, was extended into the month of January.
However, Pringle says, the Administration has not eased the burden – but has made it a bit more onerous on persons who are struggling financially. He notes, too, that by increasing the amount to clear the barrel, the Government is taking in more money than if it had left the fee at $1.
The Opposition Leader says the Browne Administration always ensures it is making something for itself, instead of fully focusing on, and assisting, the poor and vulnerable.
A woman who utilized the initiative last Christmas reports that, by the time one has paid the Revenue Recovery Charge (RRC) and other government fees, the barrel truly will cost no less than $50 to be cleared.
Meanwhile, in one of its approaches to help the most vulnerable, the Government says it has responded to the rising prices of food and energy caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine.
According to Sir Rodney, “Recognizing the impact of this crisis on the people, [the] Ministry of Finance, under the leadership of an experienced and very determined Prime Minister, took decisive action with the full support of the Cabinet to adjust various tax mechanisms.”
As a result, he claims, millions in fuel taxes were waived to alleviate the burden caused by volatile oil prices, while numerous zero-rated products were added to the existing list.
But Pringle says there are ways in which the Government could have ensured sound fiscal management while drawing a balance – without creating a bigger challenge and increasing inflation. And he chides the Government for failing to prioritize its spending.