Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 27th 2016 Contents A20
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Are males now the weaker sex?
Barbados has undergone dramatic social
and economic changes since 1966, so
much so that as we celebrate the golden
jubilee of sovereignty an intriguing
question is being asked. It is: who is the
weaker sex, who is on top?
Given the global insensitivity when it
came to gender issues at the time of
independence on November 30, 1966, it
didn't come as a surprise that the answer
was "men". The evidence of discrimination
against women was everywhere. The
legal, medical, journalistic and accounting
professions were bastions of male
dominance; ministerial power was in the
exclusive hands of men.
Not so anymore. Although men still
dominate political and commercial life, the
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley is a
woman and so is the President of the
Senate, Kerryann Ifill. In addition, two
women sit in the cabinet. There is more.
Girls are performing better than boys in
secondary schools. When the University
of the West Indies Cave Hill campus holds
its next graduation, not only will a capable
woman, Prof Eudene Barriteau, stand on
centre stage as the first female principal,
but more women than men will receive
There's more. Women are the leaders
of the three largest trade unions and such
major private sector institutions as the
Barbados Chamber of Commerce and
Industry and the Barbados Manufacturers
Association have women as their
executive directors. At the same time,
female magistrates, judges and practising
attorneys play dominating roles in the
courts. Interestingly, single women and
wives with spouses are believed to hold
most of the mortgages on properties.
Should society be concerned about
what's happening? Yes, and no. First, we
should applaud not fight against women's
progress. They earned it. ( )
Sound off: Who's the weaker sex?
u y. u
y u .
PHOTO: EDISON BOODOOSINGH
On Thursday, the Central Bank
published its most up-to-date
reading of the T&T economy
and it indicated slower growth, the likeli-
hood of higher unemployment and food
inflation that measured 9.4 per cent on a
year-on-year basis in February, compared
with 4.5 per cent in January.
In its Monetary Policy Announcement,
the Central Bank said: "Despite the
reduction in VAT to 12.5 per cent from 15
per cent, the widening of the range of
items subject to the sales tax effective
February 1, 2016, may have contributed
in part to an increase in food prices."
As yet, there are indications that the
increase in food prices---which is obvious
to anyone who has gone shopping in a
grocery or supermarket since the VAT
regime was amended---has not had a sig-
nificant impact on the overall cost of liv-
That s because, according to the official
Index of Retail Prices, headline inflation
measured 3.4 per cent in February 2016,
when compared to 2.4 per cent in Janu-
ary, and 6.2 per cent in February 2015.
But the fact that food prices have
increased since the introduction of the
revised VAT must be of great concern to
the current administration, especially as
this was not what it predicted in its 2015
general election manifesto.
In that document, which now forms
official government policy, the ruling
People s National Movement promised
that it would: "Reduce VAT to 12.5 per
cent to provide much-needed relief to all
consumers and lower the cost of living,
while aggressively improving tax collec-
It is now a reality, based on the escala-
tion of food prices and the increase in
headline inflation, that the reduction of
VAT to 12.5 per cent has neither "provid-
ed much-needed relief to all consumers"
nor has it "lowered the cost of living."
Contrary to the administration s expec-
tations, the lowering of VAT to 12.5 per
cent has not contributed to lowering the
cost of living because most retailers have
seen the measure as a means of expand-
ing their profit margins.
Instead of reflecting the VAT reduction
in their final prices, most retailers are
claiming that higher costs in other
areas--- such as transportation, the
increases in the Green Fund and Business
Levy, higher costs of imported products
and the three per cent depreciation of
the TT dollar in the period January 1,
2016, to March 21, 2016, are forcing
them to maintain or increase the prices
in place before the February 1, VAT
No lesser person than Prime Minister
Keith Rowley has expressed unhappiness
at this predatory behaviour of the major-
ity of the nation s retailers.
The question, therefore, becomes what
is the Government going to do to ensure
that the promise in its election manifesto
that the reduction of VAT would provide
"much-needed relief to all consumers
and lower the cost of living" is fulfilled?
The Government can start by directing
the Consumer Affairs Division to name
and shame supermarkets and groceries
that are refusing to bring "much-needed
relief to consumers and lower the cost of
living," which is now part of the admin-
istration s policy.
The Consumer Affairs Division must
also improve its consumer education by
using social media tools in new and
innovative ways. Secondly, the Govern-
ment should insist that the products
manufactured by the majority state-
owned National Flour Mills (NFM)---such
as flour, cooking oils and rice---reflect the
administration s policy of bringing
"much-needed relief to consumers."
Thirdly, the administration should
strategise ways of increasing the compe-
tition in the retailing of food products,
perhaps by increasing the mandate of the
NFM as an importer and distributor of a
wider range of food products.
Finally, in the 2016 budget documents,
the Government envisaged a substantial
increase in VAT revenues as a result of
the widening of the basket of goods that
are now VATable.
In order to achieve this, the intention
to aggressively improve tax collection has
been emphasised repeatedly.
It is hoped that the collection of VAT
revenues from those retailers that are not
reflecting the reduced tax in their final
costs does not meet with the same fate
as the promise to provide much-needed
relief to all consumers.
It is now a reality, based on the escalation of food prices and the increase in headline inflation, that the reduction of
VAT to 12.5 per cent has neither "provided much-needed relief to all consumers" nor has it "lowered the cost of living."
Do more on food prices
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