Minister responds to airport tax concerns

Minister for Economic Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Transport and Civil Aviation, Guy Joseph, has been responding to concerns that the reintroduction of the airport development  tax could hurt the tourism industry.

“”Anything could happen that could  hurt the tourism industry – a hurricane could, crime is affecting it,” he told reports, adding that there are a number of factors that can affect tourism.

Joseph said the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and others have their perspective on what should happen, but the government of Saint Lucia has a different perspective as to the impact of the measure.

He asserted that the tax does not put Saint Lucia out of the range of other countries.

“It is not that it is so exorbitant compared to other countries and if that was the case, why did all the other countries grow more than us over the last few years – even those that are charging more than us? They grew more as a tourism destination than Saint Lucia did,” Joseph told reporters yesterday.

“We are concerned. We wish that you didn’t have to pay any taxes, but the reality is – it is something that is needed at this point in time and to prejudge what the outcome is, I  don’t think is the right way to go. I think a year from now we will have the opportunity to review and to be able to  say ‘Well if we have that level of negative impact on the economy, then should we change it around?'” He stated.

Joseph said an assessment cannot be made until data is obtained.

He said when the tax was removed a corresponding increase in the number of arrivals was not observed.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet,  last year blasted  the former St Lucia Government, asserting that it  should be “embarrassed and ashamed” at its decision to rescind  the airport development tax, which has cost the island in excess of EC$200 million  in revenue.

Chastanet promised at the time to reintroduce the measure as of April 1, 2017, despite opposition calls not to do so.

The airport development tax will be reinstated at a rate of US$35 for persons travelling outside of Caricom countries and the French Caribbean islands. The tax had been suspended by the Kenny Anthony administration in 2012.