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BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (CMC) — St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says he believes “there is a general acceptance” within the Caribbean for a lowering of taxes so as to encourage intra-regional travel.

Gonsalves, who is chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping, CARICOM, told a panel discussion organised by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) on Thursday, that the regional governments have come to the realisation that there is a need to lower airline taxes in order to make the sector profitable.

He told the discussion on the “COVID-19 pandemic and regional air transport” that the governments would have to be prepared to fund the operations of their airports in the short term.

“St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have already cut our taxes from US$40 to US$20, Grenada has announced that they are doing that …I know Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister in Dominica is talking the same thing, Prime Minister [Allen] Chastanet [of St. Lucia] is talking the same thing, though Antigua and Barbuda has a departure tax plus this other kind of development levy or fee.

“There is, I think, a general acceptance that we have to lower the taxes. It means that the governments will have to put more money from the Consolidated Fund in the short run to operate their airports and move into a model to make them places to do business in addition to just being locals for the movement of passengers,” said Gonsalves, who has lead responsibility for transportation within the quasi-CARICOM cabinet.

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Regional economist, Justin Ram, who also participated in the programme, said regarding infrastructure “the airports that we have in the region are huge cost centres and it is actually one of the reasons we have high taxes and fees.

“If you think about it for our size of population in the Caribbean, if we were a single land mass we would probably only have about three airports … but because … we are small islands, we have many airports to contend with and those are quite costly. So I think the model around airports and how we utilise infrastructure we need to change, we need to stop thinking about them as cost centres and start changing them into revenue centres”.

Ram said that Caribbean countries needed to re-think their policies regarding transportation and airport development.

“I think it is time for us in the Caribbean to have a single regulator. So if, for example, I am authorised to operate out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that should give me clearance to operate anywhere in the Caribbean.

“I think this is where we need to go, and more importantly, I think having a single Caribbean airspace is critical also for the passengers. It means that once I enter the Caribbean through immigration, I should not have to go through immigration, customs, again. We really need to have one set of rules so that we have that single airspace,” he added.

Meanwhile, Gonsalves has defended the decision of Caribbean countries to establish a “travel bubble” so as to encourage travel given the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Caribbean economies.

“The idea of the bubble is that really once the territories are at the same level with respect of infection and the other things…is that you would not require PCR tests upon arrival in any country which is in the bubble”.

He said once the person undergoes the usual tests, “you will move safely without requiring a PCR either when you leaving or when you are arriving … there would not be any quarantine either.

“This is about a management of risks but you will have to be in the territory for 48 days, you can’t go from St. Kitts to Miami and you come from Miami … to St. Vincent, you will have to either do your PCR out of the USA in Miami or you will have to do it when you come in St. Vincent and there will be a period of quarantine because you would have not have been in the Caribbean territory for 14 days continuously…

“So the bubble has that defining element too,” said Gonsalves.

7 replies on “Gonsalves says there is need for lowering of airport taxes”

  1. Urlan Alexander says:

    As chairman for Liat shareholders for almost twenty years Gonsalves is now you realising this? In every quarter of the Caribbean travellers of all walks of life have been asking for tax reduction and you never budge. You helped ran Liat into the ground and now you are letting your friends control the routes Liat had all of a sudden you come to your senses. Comrade you’re thinking that everyone is like you have some vincentian populace thinking that you’re good. You know this is all a farce and you are thinking like a conman of the highest order. Wise up comrade your days are numbered.

  2. Peter Binose really could see into the future he warned Gonsalves numerous times in his writings that the taxes on aircraft, people, landing, departure, security and all the others were over priced. If he had been listened to by the Chairman of LIATS shareholders, defacto LIAT director Dr Ralph E Gonsalves, who was also CARICOM spokesperson on air-transport. If only he could listen and take advice from someone who was by far his superior, perhaps LIAT would not be in trouble today.

  3. To much Big Brains around and secret investors who are the owners of one Caribbean Airline why is it such a big secret are they 2 one Caribbean Airlines I am seeing one Caribbean St Vincent Ltd And one Caribbean Barbados Limited who would stand liability in case of accident some airports around the Caribbean look like ghost towns just take a look at AIA or George fl Charles in st Lucia they now missing the Water the well is Dry.R.I.P LIAT.

  4. Percival Thomas says:

    Air transport is a vital link between Carribean countries. Caribbean people need to move between the islands for business, holiday, to see family and friends. Air transport should be well coordinated by countries under a single authority. Fares should not be too high and passengers should be able to move easily between the islands.

  5. Good that they took a little tax off the ticket cost, now they need to reduce flight taxes by an additional 80-100 US Dollars and I will think about stopping my crying and complaining. Tickets will still be very expensive but…”Welcome to the Caribbean”!

  6. Kenton that is a great photo, did you have to duck or was it photo-shopped?

    On all the sites I visit every day I have voted yours the SVG winner, why? because people make comments on IWN, on most sites they do not. Often the comments are as, or more important than the article to some of the readers. I actually judge the popularity and success of a site by its comments. In the past even your site attracted many more commentators. All those old commentators seem to have disappeared, but there are a few of us who persevere. There are some other sites which get great commentary, but they are foreign ones.

    Thanks and well done Kenton you are doing a great job, few realize how difficult it is to do what you do day in and day out.

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