The Prime Minister is reported in a section of the media that CARICOM passport holders will have to pay US$20 for a PCR test (COVID-19 test) while non-CARICOM passport holders will be billed at US$40. He announced that the mandatory fees which take effect shortly will be levied as part of the price of the ticket.
However, we must note that Prime Minister Gonsalves has given with one hand and taken with the next.
We remind readers that in announcing the reduction of the departure tax rate for CARICOM nationals, PM Gonsalves stated, “We have to think creatively in relation to how we are going to sustain our economy. Services are important, tourism services”. He further said that the change was necessary to “encourage regional travel”.
However, in effect, the US$20 fee for the PCR test replaces the US$20 reduction in departure tax for CARICOM nationals and those carrying Vincentian passports.
Moreover, instead of stimulating international travel, the US$40 fee will make flights to SVG even more expensive.
Many persons are already reporting astronomically high airfare during this COVID era and further taxes will only dent demand for tourism services.
Further, with the demise of Liat Airline, many persons with confirmed bookings may have to pay for alternative flights to and from their various destinations.
The strategy employed by PM Gonsalves reminds us of the famous ‘masterstroke’ as referenced by some commentators when the government borrowed money from NIS to pay back NIS.
Part of the 2014 resolution taken to parliament stated:
“NOW BE IT RESOLVED by this Honourable House that the Government may, pursuant to this Resolution, raise a loan from the National Insurance Fund in an amount sufficient to produce as nearly as may be the sum of fifteen million dollars to liquidate outstanding contributions owed by the Government to the National Insurance Fund”.