The economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines registered year-on-year improved performance during the first four months of 2016, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ralph Gonsalves said Tuesday.
Gonsalves told a media conference in Kingstown that his government ended the period with a current account balance of EC$5.2 million, compared to a deficit of almost EC$4 million at the end of April 2015.
“The overall deficit is 7.37 million compared to just over 18 million last year at the end of April,” Gonsalves said.
Total revenue and grants increased by 5.7 per cent to EC$180.07 million and current revenue rose 6.1 per cent to EC$178.5 million.
The improved fiscal performance was buoyed by added intakes from a number of taxes.
“We have seen increased collections in several categories of taxes. Taxes on income and profit gone up by 11.7 per cent,” Gonsalves said, adding, “It’s not an increase in the rate of taxation, it’s just that we have seen the collections increase.”
The government, however, received less from taxes on properties, which also includes alien land holding licences and stamp duty.
“I happen to know that in the case of the alien landholding licence, the number is more than what is here, so there is some reporting lag,” Gonsalves said but did not disclose the figure.
Intake from taxes on goods and services were up 2.3 per cent.
“It is interesting to see that the value-added tax collections have gone up by about 7 per cent,” Gonsalves said, adding that there are still a lot of arrears on a number of taxes.
The figures he presented did not include May, when VAT on a number of food items came into effect.
The intake from taxes on international trade rose by 8 per cent, Gonsalves told the media, but said this figure could have been better.
“That could have been a little higher, though the growth is commendable. We still give too many ad hoc concessions. We have to tighten those,” he said.
“Everybody applies. Of course, when you don’t give, you are the worst man in the world. But it has the price,” he said, adding that he has spoken on this issue before.
“I have to be enterprising, but I have to be prudent,” Gonsalves said.
On the expenditure side, total expenditure fell “slightly” compared to the EC$188 million during the first four months of 2015, Gonsalves said, but did not give the exact figure.
He said recurrent expenditure went up by 1.1 per cent, moving from EC$171 million to EC$173 million.
Capital expenditure is “slightly down comparatively, but there is some reporting lags also with that,” he added, but did not disclose the figures.
Commenting on the overall fiscal situation, Gonsalves said “there is some improvement in the fiscal numbers at the same time, I caution again that we are not out of the proverbial woods and still require real care in the management of our resources and the way we spend our money, and, of course, the question of the collection of the revenues. We still have some way to go with the improvements in that regard.”
Gonsalves noted that Moody’s recently gave St. Vincent and the Grenadines a better rating than last year.
“But, as I had said to you last year, I am not going to put on sack cloth and ashes because I knew where we were going and the trend. They gave us a better report now and I’m not going to jump for joy because I know what are the challenges still before us. I’ve been around long enough in this business and you can expect from me always optimism, but, nevertheless, measured in my responses. Not to jump as though its glorious, but, at the same time, not to have the doom and gloom that you get from a lot of people,” Gonsalves said.