Beginning October 1, 2012 the government of Saint Lucia imposed a Value Added Tax (VAT) on good and services. In doing so, Saint Lucia became the last member of the Caribbean Community to adopt VAT. In the months and weeks leading up to the deadline, various stakeholders expressed doubts about the country's readiness for VAT, citing concerns about the the new equipment and accounting systems which were required; uncertainty about the exemptions and of course the major question of whether the country should even being attempting this during a difficult economic period. During the first week of the implementation of VAT, it was a popular topic of discussion on social media.
On Facebook, in the group “Saint Lucians Aiming for Progress”, Ethelbert James felt it was unreasonable for citizens to make demands on the government without also paying the taxes that allow it to fulfill those demands:
Nicholas Leo reiterated this point and added that many of the people complaining have no problems with paying VAT in other countries:
when a goverment borrows money from foreign or commercial banks, it adds to the national debt.when a goverment borrows from the NIC,it is a headache.but when the citizenry wants road infrastructure,housing, etc,goverment have to find the resources to do so.just to assist in the development of our country by giving 15% of our own money,it is like hell came on earth.goverment gives 100% to make sure we are safe,proper roads,proper working environment,better schools,proper amenities, etc,etc,etc.do st.lucians want the goverment to keep on borrowing and borrowing,where as we can play our part. we have to help our selves now. the taxes we are paying before vat collectively cannot sustain this country. so now the question before us is ask not what can our country do for us,but what can we do for our country.
I have tried to stay away from the senseless chatter about the implimentation of VAT in St Lucia, but after seeing so many ignorant statements about the tax, I asked myself this question; how many of these same Lucians who now complain have visited the US and Canada, paid taxes on almost everything yet they would not complain. The taxes that we pay on these items in these foreign countries go towards paying for their infrastructure, paying down their deficits/debt and running their public institutions. Had the UWP won the last election, VAT would have been introduced in April of this year, yet now King and company are trying to fool Lucians yet again. Lucians this is the 21st century, VAT is an inescapable inconvenience
Fairness and taxation
Yogi Sandy Dale Flavien felt that Saint Lucia needs to revisit its tax code, particularly with regard to the rate of corporate taxes:
The huge Elephant in the ROOM is that Corporate taxes are too low, There are no dividend taxes, capital gains and interest tax – all not in the tax code. These tax code issues have to be solved. St. Lucia is only Caribbean Island, and maybe one of few places in world without these taxes. Rich and expats do not pay their fair share !!! govt must fix that – 80 -100 million right there
It is Morally wrong, Ethically wrong and just plain Unfair for some industries to pay and or charge VAT while others don't. If the Hospitality Industry doesn't want to pay and charge VAT then the Poor, Underprivileged, Wealthy and everyone else can do the same. Those that don't pay their taxes but receive subsidies and concessions need to be sorted out. No double standards please, Not in 2012!!
Nadia Cauzabon asked consumers to be vigilant and to make sure that they were not being taken advantage of:
Citizen Watch: In a small bid to get St. Lucians just a bit more conscious of their power as a consumer, I would like all members in this forum and living in St. Lucia to start monitoring prices of items in Saint Lucia. Get a file sheet, draw up a table, write a list of about 20 commonly used items in your household and write the price of each item every month to track changes. Dig out your old bills to get pre-vat prices. Or better yet, do it in a spreadsheet in excel. Use one file sheet/spreadsheet for each company. Then you can provide ‘data’ to the VAT office or other regulatory office to REPORT if you suspect consumers are being ripped off by any establishment.
In the blog Damajority.com, Jerry George compared the attention paid to the implementation of VAT to the devotion shown to the West Indies cricket team:
let’s face it…Plain and Simple, St. Lucians are just “bava”… all that talk about VAT..bla, bla, bla…most of us aint take time to understand VAT…so bla, bla, bla…same thing with West Indies Cricket team…we are “Hot and cold” about support for the Team…only when St. Lucians want to support West Indies…just let West Indies lose…you will see!!! “BAVA”… First I though VAT roro was still going on…when I look Looshans watching West Indies on every TV set available…and cheering to thy kingdom come! Eh Bien…West Indies mantjé bay zòt batmanntjè (heart attack)
Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Kenny Anthony attempted to clarify some issues on his Facebook page:
…we have always been paying taxes on medicines but we never saw the actual taxes before. Now we do and the taxes jump at us. However, the Government was mindful of the likely impact of VAT on medicines. We secured the agreement of Caricom to remove the Common External Tariff (Duty)on pharmaceuticals for a period of four years, that is from May 01, 2012 to April 30,2016.So there will be no duty on medicines. Medicines will, therefore, attract just VAT no duty. What has happened is that many of the stores are still selling items imported prior to September with duty already paid on those items. In days to come, we all should see a reduction in the prices of medicine as the old stocks get depleted and new stock is imported without the payment of duty.