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Caribbean feeling the pinch

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Fri May 2, 2014

They say that things always get worse before they get better. But since the global economic downturn, nothing seems to be getting better. Thankfully, we in St Vincent seem not to have been as hard hit as the other countries of the Caribbean. In speaking to a prospective client recently, our conversation turned to the exorbitant taxes in parts of the world such as Great Britain and France. He lamented on how blessed we are in St Vincent, and how much we don’t know this.{{more}}

Recently Jamaican finance Minister Peter Phillips announced a new tax on bank withdrawals. He stated that it is levied on the banks and not on the customer and that the banks can use a number of different ways to pass on the tax. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the banks will directly pass it on to the customer. For every one thousand ($1,000) withdrawn, whether by ATM, teller withdrawal, cheque or otherwise, you pay one dollar to the government ($1EC=$33JMD). I anticipate that this will be a major earner for the Jamaican government, as approximately 1.7 million Jamaicans hold bank accounts. But the tax is being resisted by teachers, Opposition and practically every section of society. It adds to the existing General Consumption Tax (GCT or VAT), income taxes, telephone and fuel taxes and more. I am happy I’m Vincentian.

The Barbadian students at the UWI Cavehill Campus are also feeling the pinch. Come September for the first time, they will have to pay one hundred per cent of the tuition fee. During my tenure there from 2008-2011 they paid none. The Cave Hill Campus now faces the threat of being undersubscribed, as according to the outgoing Guild President many students, including himself, may not be able to pay the tuition. It is quite a drastic move and one questions whether the government could not have slowly weaned the students from its breast. An instant cut such as this is sure to cause some level of chaos. I am thankful that the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, whilst it made possible to many their dreams of having a university education, did not breed such dependence. Maybe the Barbados government can back some student loans for disadvantaged children like the government of SVG.

Then, there is the recent spate of crime not only here in St Vincent, but also in Trinidad, Jamaica and St Kitts, and the number of reported rapes here in St Vincent and the Grenadines. I do hope a plan can be put in place soon to correct some of these glaring societal problems. St Vincent and the Grenadines is a lovely and most beautiful place to live. I pray we are able to appreciate and seek to do our role in developing our beautiful Hairouna.

Kezron J.S. Walters

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