Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Doctor Ubaldus Raymond, has told St Lucia Times that the government acted correctly in exempting Sandals Resorts International from withholding taxes, in a dispute that the company had with with the government of Saint Lucia.
Raymond said the matter was brought before cabinet which deliberated on it and decided to end the dispute which been ongoing for a while.
“There are lots of details which I cannot discuss at this point in time, but I believe that cabinet made the correct decision in having the taxes exempted on behalf of Sandals,” the minister stated.
Raymond said it was his understanding that the sum of $24 million was involved.
“It is not taxes that Sandals owed. If Sandals or any entity owes the government any money then the government will have that entity to remit its taxes,” he asserted.
The minister told St Lucia Times that based on what was presented to cabinet, the cabinet made a decision that the taxes which were calculated as owed to the government were actually taxes that had to be exempted.
“I believe in all fairness, we were given all the evidence and in cabinet we look at everything – we ask the tough questions and when we make decisions in cabinet, I believe we always come up with the right decisions on behalf of the government and the people of Saint Lucia,” Raymond explained.
He said he believes that when the facts are presented to the public, people will understand that the government made the right decision.
“I don’t want it to look as though the government gave Sandals a break – that’s not the case,” the minister declared.
He expressed the view that generally,the public does not ask for details but people merely hear certain things and ‘move with it.’
Raymond said Sandals was given the exemption, but the important question is why.
“The question also is: Did Sandals owe the government of Saint Lucia money and the government actually gave it back to Sandals? That’s not the case.” The minister explained.
The exemption covers the period 2001 to 2009.
Raymond said the government needs money and wherever the cash can be obtained the government will seek to get it.
“Taxes is not something we take lightly – if you owe the government, the government will come after you for its taxes. In fact the taxes do not belong to the government – they belong to the people of Saint Lucia,” he observed.