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BUDGET GOODIES

BUDGET GOODIES

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Goodies galore! Like a batsman in form, Minister of Finance Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves hit stroke after stroke of budgetary shots. After much talk, hints and promises, they rolled out – from personal and corporation tax concessions to Christmas bonuses.

In another 17 days the price of gasoline will drop to $9.75 per gallon from its present price of $11.50 and diesel $8.75 from $9.50. {{more}}

Dr Gonsalves said that the new price was delayed to January 1 so as to allow Government to recover some of the losses it incurred since the latter part of 2004.

The income tax threshold has been raised from $14,000 to $15,000, costing the treasury about $2 million but benefiting over 7,200 taxpayers.

The Company Tax will also be reduced from 40 percent to 37.5 percent.

“The pace of reduction in future years will depend on our fiscal situation and most importantly on the success of the VAT,” the Prime Minister said.

Prospective homeowners will also have reason to be joyful this Christmas as stamp duties payable on mortgages will be cut in half across the board. The estimated cost of this adjustment to the Stamp Act is $1.1 million.

A five percent wage increase backdated to January 1, 2006 negotiated for daily and fortnightly paid employees of the Central Government by their trade unions will be paid.

“This back-pay will be paid to these workers before Christmas 2006,” Prime Minister Gonsalves announced.

Banana farmers were not left out of the gift giving; those who were productive and consistent will be rewarded with a payment of $1 for each box sold to WIBDECO for the first 26 weeks of this year and who were still in export production up to week 47. Additionally, Prime Minister Gonsalves announced the retention of special treats that his government institutionalized during its time in power. As he named them out he dared any Minister of Finance after him to touch them.

Among these “untouchables” was the Christmas bonus which will be paid to all of the Central Government’s 5,500 plus employees of $200 tax free.

This is the fifth year that his administration was paying out a bonus to government employees. He challenged state-owned enterprises and the private sector employers to follow suit even more generously.

Persons on public assistance or in receipt of the NIS non-contributory pension will be given a $50 Christmas bonus. Those on invalidity pensions will also be given this bonus.

Some 4000 persons will also benefit from a special road cleaning programme, valued $1.5 million.

Delivering his Throne Speech at the beginning of the sitting Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne said that St Vincent and the Grenadines is small and faces many challenges. He commended businessmen and sportsmen among others for their contribution to the development of the nation. He said that as a nation we must be committed to regional integration.

The budget debate is scheduled to wrap-up today with a response by Finance Minister, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

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