By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent
ANGUILLA: GENERAL SERVICE TAX COMING
Anguilla is moving towards replacing several taxes with a General Services Tax (GST) by January next year.
Government officials have described the change as a critical crossroads for the territory as it embarks on a series of public consultations in advance of the legislation coming into force.
The issue is not without controversy.
Premier of Anguilla, Dr Ellis Webster said the GST proposal was inherited by his government which took over the reins of office last year.
Speaking during a press conference this week he disclosed that the Anguilla government was facing the prospect of bankruptcy for not being able to service its debts and was at risk of having its constitution suspended and direct rule from the United Kingdom.
Calling the situation ‘disheartening’, Premier Webster said: “What I was told is of we could not meet our debt service we would be considered to be bankrupt and that would mean that constitution had to be suspended.”
He said the previous government had entered into an arrangement with the British government for a financial aid package of around EC$100 million (US$37 million) to cushion the effects of COVID-19 in which introducing the GST was one of the key conditions imposed by the UK as the administering authority.
Another condition is for the Anguilla government to intensify the collection of tax arrears said to be around EC$76 million (US$28 million).
The proposed GST will replace several existing taxes.
MONTSERRAT COVID RELIEF FUNDS
Businesses and individuals in Montserrat which have been agitating for financial relief government after being forced into another into lockdown due to a spike in COVID-19 cases are to finally get some relief from government.
The territory’s Governor Andrew Pearce announced that a package totalling $EC2 million (appx US$740,000) was being made available out of funds already committed by the British government.
Montserrat has been in UK grant-in-aid since its Soufriere Hills volcano erupted over 25 years ago. It also received an additional funding package last year to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The territory’s Premier, Easton Taylor-Farrell was due to announce the details of the support package this week.
It comes after much outcry over lost earnings especially in the private sector and an initiative by popular radio personality Basil Chambers to raise funds for local small businesses.
The Governor commended him for his initiative.
TURKS AND CAICOS GETS NEW GOVERNMENT
The new government in the Turks and Caicos Islands took office this week after its landslide victory in last week general election which saw former chief minister Charles Washington Misick return as Premier leading the new Progressive National Party (PNP).
The previous People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) government of ex-premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson was relegated to one seat in the TCI House of Assembly, with the former premier losing her seat.
In a concession statement she said: “The people have spoken loudly with their votes. We fully respect their decision and we wish the new Government the very best as they work for and on behalf of the people of these beautiful by nature Turks and Caicos Islands.”
Meanwhile, new Premier Misick had promised: “We come for this work. We know the work is difficult, but I promise you we are prepared. We come for this work to ensure that none of you are left behind... We plan to turbo-charge this economy to ensure that jobs are created."
BERMUDA'S BURT CITES COLONIALISM
The government of Bermuda and the United Kingdom appear on a collision course over what Premier David Burt has termed “a renewed push for colonialism by administering powers.”
In a Twitter post following a meeting with new United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Garry Conille, Mr Burt said he welcomes “deeper engagement with the UN as Bermuda works with other non-sovereign territories to protect against recent actions that signal a renewed push for colonialism by administering powers [UK].”
While there were no specifics, the Premier told Bermuda’s Bernews: "As the United Nations are responsible for the decolonization movement through the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, I thought it would be important to raise these matters on behalf of Bermuda as well as other Overseas Territories.”
Mr Burts’ ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) recently passed legislation making it legal for special licences to be issued to grow, sell and use cannabis.
However, it is unlikely to be signed into law by the territory’s Governor.