Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Camillo Gonsalves has announced government’s intention to pass legislation to allow for a one percent to be charged at the Customs department, the proceeds of which will go towards funding operations of a number of regional organizations.
Gonsalves made the announcement as he presented the 2021 budget to parliament on Monday amid threats of natural disasters and health challenges facing the nation.
Gonsalves spoke of the importance of these regional bodies to the individual nation states.
“Challenges that we face today have highlighted the indispensable role played by a number of regional organizations in the governance, safety and resilience of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Our response to the pandemic to date would have been impossible without the support and technical experience of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan-American Health Organization and the Regional Security System (RSS).
“Similarly, our monitoring analysis and preparation for any eventualities at La Soufriere Volcano were made effective through our cooperation with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology as well as the Caribbean Meteorological Services and the very important Seismic Research Centre,” Gonsalves told parliament.
The finance minister said that other important agencies such as the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority and the OECS are of self-evident importance, and that they constitute an extension of the local functions of this government and “are inextricable from the work of a modern nation state.”
The finance minister said that in order to ensure consistent contributions towards proper funding of these organizations, the government will move to pass legislation “that will guarantee automaticity of financing” to critical regional entities.
“These entities will be funded by a one percent increase to the Customs Service Charge, and ring-fenced in much the same way that we set aside monies for our Contingencies Fund.
“The increase will move the Customs Service Charge from 5 percent to 6 percent, a rate that is still among the lowest in the region. We expect the measure to yield $9.6 million this year which represents less than 1.5 percent of budgeted revenue,” he stated.
The Customs Service Charge is projected to realize an estimated $10 million.