ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) — The Dominica Government has defended the introduction of a new tax on visitors and nationals entering the country, even as an Opposition legislator claimed that the fiscal measure was introduced “clandestinely and secretly”.
Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) legislator Norris Prevost said the Roosevelt Skerrit Administration had introduced the new EC$27 (US$10) entry tax and the five dollar security tax by invoking Section 74 of The Dominica Air and Sea Port Authority Act 2006 to “secretly give effect to this measure.
“The new tax measure was only brought to the attention of Parliament when it was laid on the table at the later Parliamentary sitting of Sept 18, 2014. The Order reveals that this New Secret Tax is dated July 3, and became effective when it was Gazetted on July 14, 2014,” Prevost said in a statement.
He said the Government’s approach to effect the new travel tax should be viewed as a “clandestine way of evading Parliamentary, media, and industry scrutiny of a very far reaching tax measure, and brings into serious question the credibility and trustworthiness of the Roosevelt Skerrit Government”.
He said, too, that the new fiscal measure contradicts Prime Minister Skerrit’s claim of “no new taxes” in his 2014-2015 budget.
But Ports Minister Rayburn Blackmoore said the new tax would assist in the maintenance of the ports on the island.
“The notion that the decision by way of a regulation to introduce a passenger facility fee of US$10 upon a particularly category of persons entering the ports of Dominica is very deceptive or dishonest is very unfortunate,” he said, giving Dominicans the “assurance that decision, which incidentally is permissible by law…was taken outside the cycle of the budget of 2015”.
He said the new tax was as a result of a recommendation made by the Dominica Air and Sea Ports Authority to help it maintain the facilities “bearing in the mind the tremendous challenges and standards we have to meet at our various ports in so far as civil aviation and security measures are concerned”.
But Blackmoore said that the decision to introduce the new fee had been deferred to allow other stakeholders to further discuss the matter.
“The measure was supposed to have been effected as of July 2014, but because we have not yet finalised the agreements with the International Air Transport Association that fee in itself has not been collected.
“Having said that going forward we are going to ensure that we have a constructive engagement with the relevant stakeholders and as a consequence we are going to further defer the introduction of that fee,” he said, noting that relevant Government ministers and other port authorities will embark on a public education programme regarding the introduction of the fee.
Source: Jamaica Observer