The Last Straw

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After persons are incrementally burdened, there comes a time when the last load causes a severe reaction.  The last load may be relatively light and insignificant, but if it is the proverbial last straw, the entire load may be rejected by the burdened.

A woman may be ill-treated for decades, and may appear to put up with it.  But one day, a relatively minor incident may be the catalyst for the woman to leave the relationship.  The man may wonder why such a drastic step was taken for such a relatively minor incident.  However, he should consider the cumulative effect of the previous loads.  A wise man would start gingerly removing those previous loads.

Employees may put up with years of ill-treatment by incompetent managers.  But one day, after a relatively minor incident that could be easily resolved, the workers may decide to strike en-mass.  The last minor incident was simply the last straw for them.

The Employer may win the public relations battle in identifying the relatively minor nature of the “last straw” incident.  However, to actually resolve the problem, all past ‘loads’ need to be addressed.  Just addressing the final straw only delays the inevitable industrial action.  As the largest employer, the Government should move with haste to improve the management of Government departments and statutory corporations in order to avoid that last straw.  The international quality management standard, ISO 9001, should be implemented with dispatch.

Approximately 9 years ago, the Government increased the annual registration fee for me to practise engineering in Barbados from $500 to $2,500, and I had no choice but to pay it.  Then the Government increased VAT, and I had no choice but to pay the increased tax.  They also applied a Consolidation tax to my income tax, and I had no choice but to pay that also.

The Government then burdened me with a solid waste tax, and I thought that that tax was the last straw.  However, they introduced a tax clearance certificate which I had to obtain in order to participate in the national economy, so I had no choice but to pay the solid waste tax.  They have now invented a National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), and I will have no choice but to pay that too.  It is amazing at how resilient some Barbadians can be.  However, not all are so resilient.

The Government determined that more revenues were required.  So they increased taxes on all of us in an equitable manner.  Then some sectors decided that the tax increase was the last straw for them.  Whenever the tourism sector, international business sector, or any other sector of the economy decide that a tax is their last straw, then what they are actually saying is that the Government must remove the tax burden from them, and place it on the rest of us.  The unions are now claiming that the NSRL is their last straw.

I shop at stores that are conveniently located on my travelling routes.   I noticed the cost of items increasing, but I can do little to change that, so I pay for the items without complaining.  However, I have an understanding with these stores.  They bag my goods and I walk around with their bags and advertise their stores.  I do not mind advertising the stores that I patronize, because I normally patronise stores where I feel that I am getting value for the money that I spend.

I recently went into a supermarket, and after the cashier totalled the items that I intended to purchase, the cashier asked whether I wanted to purchase a plastic bag for 15 cents.  I could easily afford the 15 cents, but why charge me to advertise their store?

Then I saw my checked-out groceries laying unbagged on the cashier’s counter, and they were too numerous for me to carry out of the store in my hands.  I recalled the past 9 years of being forced to pay not only my taxes, but the taxes of those sectors who “Government relief”.  To now have this store, which has already included the cost of the plastic bags in the products, to try to force me to pay for the plastic bag that I have already paid for was my last straw.

I paid for the items, but I realised that I did have a choice and I made it.  I decided to never patronize that supermarket for the rest of my life.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at


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