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When is a Dollar more than a Dollar?

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4.MAY.07

Editor,

WHEN A DOLLAR tax is levied on all the people of the Grenadines who wish to travel to the capital of their own country, that dollar is worth much more than a dollar. It is worth, apparently, discriminating against an important segment of the country’s population, a segment who have no choice but to travel to the mainland on occasion whether to buy shoes for a schoolchild, or to get an ultrasound done on an unborn child, or to secure, ironically, a new passport for St. Vincent & the Grenadines!{{more}} An hour on the high seas can be stressful enough, but to be treated like an alien just to get on the ferry back home is anathema to most Bequians. The objection is one of principle.

Most people in Bequia have no problem with the concept of paying a dollar to use an air-conditioned waiting room. That, it can be argued, is payment for a service.

But to levy a tax wholesale on all who wish to get from one part of this country to another is discrimination, a form of putting people under, not house arrest, but “island arrest”. Whilst the countries of the Eastern Caribbean are encouraging interstate movement, the Government of St. Vincent would appear to be discouraging travel within its own borders. Already travelers are saying it takes less time and fuss to get through immigration and security internationally in Barbados, than it does to board a ferry to Bequia.

The dollar tax is not an efficient way to raise revenue. Any businessperson would know this. The amount of paperwork, book-keeping, enclosure facilities, staff, and police necessary for collection, make it very cost-ineffective.

That dollar, however, if maintained, will be very successful at alienating the island of Bequia. It is just the thing to make the people of the Grenadines feel separate from the rest of the country. That dollar, therefore, is not just a dollar; that dollar is priceless.

Pat Mitchell

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