Political scientist and economist weigh in on manifesto promises

The release of a comprehensive manifesto by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has placed the incumbent organisation ahead of its opponents, who, thus far have only delivered scattered promises on the political platform.

This is the assessment from political science lecturer Dr Kristina Hinds, who has cautioned candidates from the Democratic Labour Party (DLP)’s old guard against referring to their political records under the Freundel Stuart administration in the ongoing campaign.

Economics Professor Michael Howard, however, slammed BLP promises to abolish land tax as “foolish talk” given its “essential” contribution to Government’s revenue generation and by extension, its national development.

They were responding to a weekend of developments on the campaign trail, most notably, the BLP’s ambitious manifesto. They include promises of eliminating land tax on the first $400,000 of property value, the construction of 10,000 houses in five years, and plans to transform 50,000 homes into drivers of revenue generation through renewable energy.

According to Dr Hinds, the document is “very aspirational”, but she wondered whether some of the promises might confuse the average Barbadian, though appearing to be quite forward looking.

“I would definitely say that the BLP is slightly ahead of the Democratic Labour Party because it has released a manifesto that people can look to and decide whether the plan that the Barbados Labour Party has for the country is adequate, if it makes sense, if the things that can be implemented and are good for the country,” Dr Hinds told Barbados TODAY.

“So that’s quite useful, especially since sometimes it can be difficult when listening to platform presentations to decipher the exact policy from what is campaigning and trying to rouse the crowd and get the vote,” she added.

While lauding the document’s ‘people-centredness’, she cautioned against placing too much trust in manifesto promises that are often undelivered.

“I think the ease in land tax would be very useful for many people. I also think that as small as this $3,000 may be that they’re offering first-time homeowners 35 years and younger, it’s something that is helpful,” said the UWI lecturer.

“My question about the land tax has to do with what will replace it. When we give this tax revenue loss, it needs to be recouped somewhere else,” she added.

But Professor Howard contended that land tax was one of the most equitable taxes, when compared with value added tax (VAT), or taxes on garbage or fuel, which are regressive on the poor.

“The abolition of the land or property tax in Barbados would benefit the rich, commercial and propertied classes, more than proportionally and these classes have also benefited from the reduction of corporation and income tax, as well as VAT pardons,” Howard contended via Facebook.

“Further, and importantly, the value of land rises like those of stocks and shares, and therefore land and property, both commercial and personal, should be taxed like any other asset. Land used for business or rental property should be taxed on grounds of economic efficiency in contributing to economic growth. Rental housing should also be taxed as a consumption good.

“The opportunity cost of idle land, in terms of its negative contribution to economic growth, is very high, and therefore idle land should be taxed at a higher rate than improved land.

“The tax on land values in new developments can also be viewed as betterment levies used to accelerate economic development. The politicians are clearly struggling blindly in deep waters,” the retired professor concluded.

In the meantime, Dr Hinds warned the DLP against attempting to romanticise its time in Government from 2008 to 2018, particularly candidates who served during the now infamous term.

“I don’t think this is a really good thing to do because people were not pleased with the previous administration. I also do think that there is a level of apology and contrition that has not come from the Democratic Labour Party that may be useful, especially for the returning candidates that were in the previous administration,” Dr Hinds explained.

The university lecturer noted that it would be useful for the DLP to focus its efforts on galvanising support at the constituency level, whilst balancing a case for why they should form the next government.

“People are considering the type of government that they want, people are also considering whether we need an opposition and then a third thing that people are considering is the needs in their constituencies and the political parties have to strike a balance,” said Dr Hinds.

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