One of the popular Bridgetown retailers is warning Barbadians to brace for price rises of no less than ten to 12 per cent once Government’s recently announced tax measures take effect.
Managing Director of Woolworth Martin Bryan said despite assurances from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that the “prohibitive” rise in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) will not affect basic food items, Barbadian shoppers will not escape the tax hikes, which include a two per cent duty on foreign exchange transactions and an increase in petrol taxes.
“When you look at the two per cent foreign exchange [tax] that you got to pay on every overseas draft, have to pay suppliers and the new increase in the NSRL, you are looking at a minimum of ten to 12 per cent that it will go up,” Bryan told journalists at the unveiling of a new escalator at the Bridgetown store.
He said while shoppers, particularly those looking for back-to-school supplies at his store – may not see an increase immediately, it would not be long before the new taxes begin to bite.
Brian explained the delay will be due to the fact that many of the items have already been ordered.
However, he said when that stock runs out shoppers will begin to feel the squeeze.
“Usually we try to get everything in before June, and what is not in before June is now at the port. We are going to try to get it cleared before July, so it should not affect our back-to-school business. But that’s only a timing difference because once back-to-school is finished and that stock is exhausted we bring in new stock,” he stressed.
Although Bryan expects the petrol and foreign exchange taxes to hurt, it is the sheer rate of the rise in the NSRL that will cause the greatest damage to people’s pockets, he said.
“That is going to affect us significantly and the customers . . . when the new stock come in that will have a ten per cent. This is going to significantly affect the average Barbadian. It is going to hurt them straight in their pockets. It is a very prohibitive tax. It’s going to curb sales and it’s twofold – our costs of our goods are going to go up and our cost of business as well.”
With business in the capital already on the decline, the Woolworth boss said the austerity measures announced in the May 30 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals could spell further trouble for retailers and workers.
“We have seen a falloff in business yes, and . . . we have seen a little decline in sales in the last couple of months. I think that has a lot to do with the uncertainty in the economy and the last budget certainly has not help that at all.
“We have not yet considered that [job cuts], but that is not to say that it is not a possibility. I think you are going to see people going home,” he warned.