With Standard and Poor’s recent downgrade of our economic forecast to negative, I do not believe that the Government will have the resources to support the mass of unemployed and under-employed persons if the high level of predicted unemployment is realised. Let me recommend a solution for Barbados, and other nations that face a similar predicament.
One solution is for the Government to encourage all property owners to plant food crops on their available lands. A suitable incentive would be a reduction in their land or property tax bill.
How can this work?
A property owner who plants 50% of their available land in vegetables should pay 50% less tax on the land value assessed. If they planted 100% of their available land in food crops, then they should pay no tax on the land value assessed.
We can go further with this. An added incentive would be for the property owner to pay a similar reduction on the improved (house) value. Therefore, if the property owner planted one large tree, like breadfruit, mango or golden apple, for every 50 sq-m area of available land, then they should pay no tax on the land improved value, because they can feed many in the community. If they planted one large tree for every 100 sq-m area of land, then they would pay 50% of the tax on the land improvement value, and so on.
How can this be assessed?
An efficient way of assessing the taxes payable would be to pay for two high resolution images of Barbados each year, and digitally overlay the Land Valuations maps. Therefore, each property can easily be examined in the comfort of an air-conditioned office, and verification visits can be conducted as required.
What are the likely benefits?
There are several potential benefits which can be realised within one year.
1. It can leave more money in property owners’ possession, so that they can purchase additional goods and services and indirectly stimulate the local economy.
2. It can reduce the burdensome national food import bill as property owners and their neighbours begin to eat more of the food that they grow.
3. It can reduce the burdensome national drug import bill as more households begin to eat the healthier food that they grow, and get more physical exercise during the planting, maintaining, and reaping of this food.
4. The unemployed property owner will have an independent source of food and revenue.