PM King presents growth budget
CASTRIES, St Lucia – Prime Minister Stephenson King has presented an EC$1.3 billion (US481 million) budget with few taxes which he said would help maintain the economic growth St. Lucia and deal with a number of issues including crime.
King, who is also Finance Minister, told legislators last night that the budget would consist of recurrent expenditure of EC$895.3 million (US$331.5 million) with capital expenditure set at EC$442.4 million (US$163.8 million).
King, who is facing a general election later this year, said tax revenue is projected to be EC$806.2 million (US$298.5 million), which represents 90 per cent of total projected revenue.
He said the budget would also be financed by grants from governments and multi-lateral organisations such as the European Union, the Caribbean Development Bank and China.
King said his administration will introduce a National Security Levy as part of the strategic response to the problem of crime and security.
“The battle is an on-going one which calls for us to be proactive and pre-emptive in preventing the criminals from destroying the spiritual, social and economic fabric of our country.
“In this regard we must be creative in finding the requisite resources to pay for the fight against crime, resources that must be seen not as expenditure but as an investment aimed at safeguarding the future of our beloved country.”
King said as a result, the National Security Levy of one per cent of the CIF value of selected items imported into St. Lucia will yield EC$12 million (US$4.4 million) “and will be effective for this fiscal year only”.
The Prime Minister said a 50 per cent excise tax on cigarettes .will raise an estimated five million dollars (US$1.85 million).
“This measure is also expected to deal with the increasing incidence of smuggling of cigarettes out of St. Lucia, where the price is lower than other regional neighbours. The current 100 per cent consumption tax in St. Lucia makes our price about half of what it is for the same product in Barbados and Jamaica.”
The government also intends to increase the radio and television broadcast license fees. King said the license application fees will range from EC$25 (US$9.15) to EC$2000 (US$740) per license depending on the type of operation and the class of license.
“In addition, there will be an initial license fee which ranges from EC$100 (US$37) to $2000 per license. The Government hopes to raise approximately EC$1.02 million. (US$377,000),” he said, announcing also plans to seek an increase from the National Insurance Corporation from the annual three million (US$1.11 million) to five million (US$1.85 million) during the fiscal year.
King told legislators he is confident that thefiscal measures would “achieve the objectives that I have set out.
“More fundamentally, the foundation that we have established over the last four years and which will be extended this year, has already begun to provide the impetus for sustainable growth and development. “Our accomplishments have also laid the foundation for restoring confidence and pride in St. Lucians and all that is St. Lucian, and for leaving future generations with a legacy that will enable them to take their rightful place in the world as full and worthy citizens.” (CMC)