CASTRIES, St.Lucia – Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet has given a less than enthusiastic response to the British Government’s announcement that it would freeze the controversial Air Passenger Tax (APD), suggesting it had not gone far enough.Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told the House of Commons yesterday that there would be no increase in the APD until 2012.
Caribbean tourism officials have argued that the tax is unfair and it seriously undermines the vital tourism sector.
Chastanet said the region was already suffering from last November’s rise in the “discriminatory” tax, and there was no reason for the Caribbean to celebrate Wednesday’s announcement.
“My understanding is that the UK Government was seeking to increase the tax further and that is what has been frozen so the Caribbean’s position still remains the same in that this is a very bias tax, it’s a discriminatory tax and it has a tremendous amount of negative economic impact on the region.”
The St Lucian tourism minister said Caribbean governments would continue lobbying, and he cautioned that tourism officials could seek redress at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if the UK failed to heed their request to reconsider the tax.
“This tax is a discriminatory tax as it represents different levels of taxation to different parts of the world and as such it is against the rules of the WTO, and if after the budget speech we are not satisfied that the issue is being addressed there will be countries that will challenge the UK government at the level of the WTO,” Chastanet added.
The regional tourism development agency, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), which has been lobbying for changes to the APD, Wednesday welcomed the freeze, saying it was a “small but important victory” for the region.CTO Chairman Ricky Skerritt said in a statement there had been clear recognition by the British Government of the intense industry lobbying efforts over the issue. (CMC)