Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on Saturday encouraged, intra-regional travel as a means of dampening the impact of COVID-19 on CARICOM economies.

The virus, which has resulted in over 4,000 deaths internationally, has been confirmed in a number of CARICOM nations, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St. Lucia and Jamaica, most of which have been imported cases.

At the same time some countries are discouraging travel, with the United States banning flights from Europe for 28 days, and several cruise lines and air carriers have announced suspensions of service to several destinations.  

Gonsalves, in his National Heroes’ Day address from the Obelisk in Dorsetshire Hill, on Saturday, said: “… look, we have to think creatively in relation to how we are going to sustain our economy…

“Services are important; tourism services. Yachts will come and planes will come. We are strengthening the security for the yachts, the surveillance and the management from a health standpoint,” he said.

The prime minister noted that persons departing SVG by air have to pay a US$40 departure tax.

He said he was waiting for the numbers from the Ministry of Finance to see how much revenue the country would lose if it reduces the departure tax by 50% for a period not exceeding six months.

“And I would do so because I want — I’ve spoken to some CARICOM heads. We have to encourage — if the Americans saying they’re not encouraging people to travel and the Europeans say they not encouraging people to travel, in the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) we have 650,000 persons, Trinidad is 1.3 [million], Barbados is 300,000… and then there is Guyana with 700,000. We can have a market in this part in the southern and eastern Caribbean.”

The prime minister said he had spoken with head of the SVG Tourism Authority, Glen Beache and also with the president of the SVG hotel association, suggesting that they offer specials on accommodation.

Gonsalves said that the reduced departure tax will only apply to CARICOM passport holders traveling within CARICOM.

“If you’re traveling outside, you’ll still have to pay the same extent of the tax,” he said.

The prime minister added:

“The extent by which I will reduce it will depend when I see the final numbers when they are run. And I’m hoping to get that Monday morning.

“You notice what I’m trying to do to see if we can still keep some hotel trade within the region and also some yachting business. You can’t lock yourself off from the world. We have to take reasonable steps.

“You may say, well, what about people coming in with COVID-19 from the region? Well, thus far we haven’t had community transmission. We haven’t had local transmission. We have had people come in from outside and they’re either being quarantined or isolated. So we’ll do that and manage it and look at it carefully on an ongoing basis.”

27 replies on “COVID-19 in SVG: Gonsalves proposes halving tax to urge intra-regional travel”

  1. I actually can’t believe what I’ve just read! The phrase “out of touch” springs to mind. Countries around the world are trying to secure their citizens, and here is our PM trying to encourage travel! If he hadn’t wrecked the economy, he wouldn’t have misplaced priorities now. What an appalling response to this pandemic!

  2. Jacob Stapleton says:

    Being proactive is the way to go. I am in total agreement with you Sir. We are a small economy and we can’t put our country on hold.

  3. Unbelievable. 1.He really doesn’t live Vincentians. 2.Hope he knows that he can contract the virus as well. 3.He’s putting the very airline workers at risk. 4. He doesn’t even care about his family 5. Elections are upcoming he needs sacrifices to be offered. But a fool and his money will soon part.

  4. Is this guy for real? Has he been smoking something strong? Does he really think that such a meagre Tax cut could somehow drive regional trade? The SVG economy for example have been driven so far into the ground through his incompetent bungling, it would sure need a thorough wholesale root and branch reform, including lower air fares for sure, in order to revive it.

    But is it any wonder that we are in this economic mess? Ralph Gonsalves mentors were Maurice Bishop, Castro, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and what a mess he Lula too had made of Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela and now Maduro and just look at the mess there too, both in Cuba and Venezuela. A doctor in Cuba today, now earns less per month, than a cab driver there.

    But returning to this COVID-19 and its likely economic impact upon the world. Countries that had followed prudent economic policies will sure be best placed to counter the eventual economic impact but those like SVG can only throw up their hands into the air in despair, for not fixing the roof when the sun was shining. We for sure, and because of the Gonsalves extended family rule, it will always be raining.

    “Which countries have confirmed cases? Infections with the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, have been reported around the world”.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/countries-confirmed-cases-coronavirus-200125070959786.html

    1. This time I am in much more agreement with you James. When half the airfare cost is taxes he is believing that reducing the cost by only 23 EC is going to make everyone in the region want to travel? Yes, the SVG Economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the virus is going to devastate us. Even if he reduced all the other taxes for airfare it would make little difference because for the most part people do not want to fly at this time. Although I am in agreement with him on much of what he is doing at this time, encouraging travel does not seem to be the thing to do. The extremely high taxes and Customs charges, even from the previous NDP is what keeps us poor and undeveloped. I heard a financial expert saying that Russia is a country well-positioned financially for what is coming because they have liquidated most all of thier debt, have tremendous savings in currency and gold and countries like SVG and the USA are going to have things worse because our governments base the economy on borrowing money, NO GOLD OR SAVINGS WHATSOEVER…JUST DEBT!. SVG is accountable for much of our debt and is therefore under more pressure than the USA that has an open credit from the Federal Reserve and can possibly go hundreds of trillions more into debt without accountability,…unless the confidence in the dollar is lost and a few other measures contribute, our fall will be even worse because of our peg to the US Dollar. Debt forgiveness will be our only option.

  5. Why …he needs to ban for a month or so and stop thinking about £€¥$$ for a while pips health come 1st.

  6. Prime minister gonsalves don’t give a damn about the citizens of st. Vincent and the grenadines, all he cares about is money, is money more important than people’s lives? I can’t believe what I just read…shame on you mr PM

  7. Master's Student says:

    Vincentians may not be as elitist as Cubans and Venezuelans, but it is our human right that state parties ensure the highest standard of action plan for citizens to be protected against the on going threats of COVID-19. Encouraging flights to SVG is exposing us to this external and now internal threat…

  8. That guy is a compound jackass. Why would you be reviving travel instead of tightening up the borders. I shouldn’t be surprised, because if something makes sense, it wouldn’t be coming out of his dumb mouth. He is on the scale of Trump when it comes.to leadership.skills It just isn’t there.

  9. Can we not see that the man is old and gaga and cannot think clearly anymore, can we not see that? He can only think of more devious ways as to how to keep a hold on power here. Money first, the people’s welfare last! Some of his dunce Party Faithfull’s would love what he there seeks to proposes. It is much like those pretty trinkets that they are reported to have given to some African Villagers as payment for their unlucky saves.

    But like Castro and Chavez before him, the time of this old man is most definitely running and out fast. And although he is old and gaga, he knows it too, nevertheless, he thinks that perhaps just a little tweak in his high taxes, may just somehow help his family’s hold on power even just that little bit longer.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhK7Gk68y24

    But could this man live long enough like that other dictator, Ceausescu and his Wife, to pay for his vast crimes against the Vincentian people, or would he like Castro and Chavez before him, die on us, and before he could be paraded before a specially convened Vincentian Court to account for what he has done to us?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8DQ-Axi1V0

    Indeed, this old man is in a long line of recent dictators stretching back to Joseph Stalin, Ceausescu, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Fidel Castro and more. They would tell us that they are the popular people’s choice, but really? Where is our FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL and why is it taking so long for the Courts to resolve the results of SVG’s last General Election?

  10. The PM and Mr. Trump apparently went to the same school, every thing can’t be about money, politics or looking good.
    This is time to be reducing flights not increasing, think about saving lifes Mr.PM.

  11. I think it would suit us all if he became our honorary Corona Virus victim. Let him have what he wishes on us. Some of you will remember when he said if I work Obeah I only work Obeah for the Lord.

  12. Clemon George says:

    Health is much more than the absence of disease or infirmity…we need money to maintain health…it’s not going to be made if you lock up everyone and everything

    1. Clemon George I agree. There is much I disagree with on what our PM does. Not entirely in this case. I do disagree with encouraging travel but it is stupid and futile to believe we can close our border and all will be well. So many of these people criticizing the Prime Minister on all of this have to ask themselves where will people get the money to feed themselves if all the businesses are inevitably going to have to close.
      What they recommend is encouraging an immediate economic collapse!
      They want companies to go bankrupt and mass unemployment. We have good soils but most people do not know how to farm and it takes time to grow crops. Many would starve before this.
      My mother told me of a related situation from where she was young in Eastern Europe during WW2. poverty, starvation, Theft, violence, sicknesses, etc…
      It is amazing how some of these people can sit on a high horse; cannot analyze cause and effect. I have to say that in much of this the PM is thinking more clearly than they are. However, he really has to change is macro-economic philosophy seeing it has positioned us poorly for this crisis.

    2. Clemon you are a lemon, if the fat one had not badly managed SVG and run up public borrowing and debts so as today we are owing almost 2 billion dollars, we would have plenty of money.

      He and his dynasty have got the jobs, got the money, whilst we the ordinary people have got so poor that we are now facing the corona virus and no proper treatments available, no money.

      His dumb boy, by that I mean not allowed to speak until wound up by daddy, has brought us a two billion budget which if they spend that amount of money will see us almost 4 billion dollars in debt.

      It has to stop. He put 1% on vat for emergencies, and is now using NIS money in the virus fights where is the 30 million collected by the 1%, where has that gone?

      Hello Venezuela, we want to be twinned with you, people broke, staring, dyeing, appalling medical care. Our leader likes the FU the people approach.

  13. I hear ya. But when some of y’all country decide to be independent, and when shit like this happens you can’t stand your own 2 dam feet. The countries that can handle their business will stand up for their people and their safety, will hv to put the brakes on. Lesson learned too late

  14. Ralph gonsalves are you insane, it appears that you’ve lost sight of reality, encouraging travel only facilitate the spread of the virus. Looks like it’s time for a change in leadership there.

  15. It seems that our Prime Minister is more concerned about making money than the safety and well being of his citizens. While other countries are stopping travel, we’re encouraging it.. talk about backwards.

  16. I suspect that Gonsalves has already burned out. His brain is on something. We don’t know what it is but we can see the effects. People, this man sitting daily watching big world leaders and trying to imitate them. His brains jam and he can’t make a good decision if you paid him. When commonsense and caring were being dealt he wasn’t around.

  17. I don’t know which mathematical models this PM is using. He probably just making it up as he goes [out of office]. This man is way out of step with the realities of his disastrous economic policies. I wonder if he just come up with this on a whim or did he factor it in his billion dollar budget.

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