SVG Gov’t ups Customs charge to fund regional agencies

IWN SVG  

The government is taking a step back from implementing a slew of revenue-earning measures in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said in his Budget Address on Monday.

He, however, announced a one-percentage-point increase in the Customs Service Charge, which will go toward funding regional agencies and organizations, from which St. Vincent and the Grenadines benefits. 

In presenting the EC$1.2 billion fiscal package, Gonsalves said the new measure is expected to raise almost EC$10 million.

“The increase will move the Customs Service Charge from five per cent to six per cent, a rate that is still among the lowest in the region,” he told lawmakers, who are expected to approve the budget by the end of this week.

“We expect the measure to yield $9.6 million this year which represents less than 1.5% of budgeted revenue,” he said.

“It is precisely the nature of the times and challenges that demand our response today. We simply cannot manage the pandemic and the volcano without properly funded regional institutions.”

Gonsalves said that current challenges — including the coronavirus pandemic, the on-going effusive eruption of La Soufriere volcano and the dengue epidemic — have highlighted “the indispensable role” played by a number of regional organizations in the governance, safety and resilience of SVG.

“Our response to the pandemic to date would have been impossible without the support and technical experience of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan-American Health Organization and the Regional Security System (RSS),”

The finance minister further said that the monitoring, analysis and preparation for any eventuality at La Soufriere were made effective through Kingstown’s cooperation with a number of regional organizations.

He listed the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, Caribbean Meteorological Services and the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre.

He said that these agencies and more “constitute an extension of local functions of our government, and are inextricable from the work of a modern nation state.

“They are also collective entities, upon which multiple nations in our region depend,” he said.

Gonsalves said that the functions of these essential agencies are “significantly stymied by irregular and insufficient funding.” 

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