We know that during the silly season that politicians try their best to wrong-foot their opponents, but the Prime Minister is correct to point out the holes he has found in the NDP VAT policy.
The opposition party has announced their intention to reduce VAT from day one, however they have not said how they are going to raise this money alternatively. The Prime Minister indicated that this amounts conservatively to around a $67 million dollars reduction in revenue.
Obviously, the NDP cannot argue on one hand that the country has no money to do anything while on the same hand, take much needed revenue from the treasury. How are public servants going to be paid their monthly salary and wages? How are we going to supply the necessary medication at the clinics and hospitals which they also claim do not exist? It seems a most irresponsible move.
On November 6th, there is no magic wand that is going to change the current economic fortune in SVG, across the region or the world. In fact, with countries seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, it means that the winter tourist season is under threat.
Where then is the NDP going to find the fiscal space to finance a reduction in VAT, a reduction in port duties and all the other ideas they have espoused so far? Selling passport cannot be a panacea as there are only so many passports that one can sell. This is not sustainable.
In addition to this, this same passport money is already earmarked to fund a development bank, to reduce the interest rate on student loans, to construct a Maddison square theme park at Sion Hill, to build a new cruise berth in North Leeward, to foster employment in East St George, and to build town houses in West Kingstown among others.
These all seem fanciful as we have no real competitive or comparative advantage in selling passport to fuel our economy; unless of course we offer ‘buy one, get one free packages’.
I think any reasonable and sensible individual who looks beyond party rhetoric and personal hatred for Dr Gonsalves will conclude that the VAT questions being asked by the Prime Minister are indeed pertinent and are deserving of answers before the electorate go to the polls next month.
These are the important issues that mature democracies reflect on. The public deserves a national debate between the parties to decide who really has the plans and the funding strategies to move SVG forward in the next decade.