Citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis, good day. This is the post-Cabinet briefing for Cabinet meeting held Monday April 19, 2010.
Chairman of the Cabinet, and Prime Minister, Dr Denzil Douglas, commenced the cabinet meeting re-emphasising the need to fully implement the National Security strategy as outlined by the Minister of National Security at the previous meeting of the Cabinet. Minister of National Security, Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor, gave an undertaking to work on a speedy implementation of his plans and to provide progress reports on an ongoing basis.
The minister gave an update of what had transpired over the previous week, in particular, along the lines of the three prongs of his immediate approach in dealing with the critical matter of national security. In respect of the restructuring of the crime fighting units to improve synergy and achieve greater overall effectiveness, the Minister cited the need for a closer collaborative relationship between Police and Defence, so that critical loopholes exploited by criminals can be closed.
The Minister of National Security outlined his broad approach towards the re-organisation of the human resources in both branches of the security forces. In doing so, he stressed the need for even greater oversight and a higher level of supervision on the island of Nevis. Cabinet approved the minister’s general approach in this regard.
Cabinet benefited from an extensive discussion of the plans for the introduction of the value-added tax (VAT) that is due to be introduced in November of the current year, 2010. The Financial Secretary, Mrs Janet Harris, and the VAT Officer, Mr Edward Gift, were on-hand to lead in the discussions. The Financial Secretary highlighted the need to engage the public at two distinct levels, namely: (i) having a public discussion about the associated policy issues, and among other things, helping to educate the public about the significant advantages of the VAT. Admittedly, this process has started but it needs to be expanded and formally rolled out.
(ii) Engaging the wider public on the technical matters surrounding the implementation of VAT, taking into account the various interest groups in the country.
The Ministry of Finance will work with other ministries and other stakeholders to craft the relevant programmes of public education.
Much of the discussion was generated through the presentation of White Paper prepared by the Ministry of Finance, which provides a significant level of detail about the Value-Added Tax. The Ministry of Finance confirmed that the VAT will replace the 12 taxes listed here as follows:
· Consumption Tax;
· Hotel and Restaurant Tax;
· Cable TV Tax;
· Vehicle Rental Levy;
· Insurance Premium Tax;
· Export Duty;
· Public Entertainment Tax;
· Lotteries Tax Act;
· Gaming Machine Tax;
· Traders Tax;
· Telecommunications Levy (IDD Calls) and
· Parcel Tax.
An important note regarding the VAT is that a number of basic goods will be zerorated so that these goods are most affordable to ordinary and low-income families.
These may include milk, infant formula, diapers, rice, sugar, and certain medicines for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, among other basic and important supplies.
In addition, a number of transactions, such as the sale of real property attributable to a dwelling subject to stamp duty, may be exempt from the value-added tax. All goods for export are to be exempt from the application of VAT as well.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance summarized the presentation commending the Ministry officials for their excellent work leading towards the implementation of VAT and emphasizing that the implementation of the VAT is in harmony with the eight-point stabilisation and growth programme for the Eastern Caribbean States agreed to in September of last year. This programme, he reminded, is geared towards setting St. Kitts and Nevis on a stronger path for growth, development and economic stability. The Prime Minister, in reflecting upon the fact that so many other countries have already implemented the VAT, concluded that St. Kitts and Nevis must not be left out from the important tax reforms that are occurring in the Region, and insisted that implementation timelines as outlined are critical if we are to derive the benefits of these reforms.
This brings to an end the post-cabinet briefing for Monday April 19, 2010.