Ralph Gonsalves: Airport taxes need to be lowered
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he believes “there is a general acceptance” within the Caribbean for a lowering of taxes so as to encourage intra-regional travel.
Gonsalves, who is chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping, CARICOM, told a panel discussion organised by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) on Thursday night, that regional governments have come to the realisation that there is a need to lower airline taxes in order to make the sector profitable.
He told the discussion on the “COVID-19 pandemic and regional air transport” that governments would have to be prepared to fund the operations of their airports in the short term.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have already cut our taxes from US$40 to US$20, Grenada has announced that they are doing that. I know Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister in Dominica, is talking the same thing. Prime Minister [Allen] Chastanet [of St. Lucia] is talking the same thing. Though Antigua and Barbuda has a departure tax, plus this other kind of development levy or fee.
‘There is I think a general acceptance that we have to lower the taxes. It means that the governments will have to put more money from the Consolidated Fund in the short run to operate their airports and move into a model to make them places to do business in addition to just being locals for the movement of passengers,” said Gonsalves, who has lead responsibility for transportation within the quasi-CARICOM cabinet.
Regional economist, Dr, Justin Ram, who also participated in the programme, commented regarding infrastructure that “the airports that we have in the region are huge cost centers and it is actually one of the reasons we have high taxes and fees”.