Government’s decision to relax import tax and make a number items duty free was criticized on Tuesday by Leader of the Opposition Hon. Andrew Fahie who announced that the move wounded the Treasury and disadvantaged consumers.
During his guest appearance on a ZBVI radio program on 24 October Hon. Fahie admitted that his opinion on the duty free initiative is unpopular but he stated that the initiative should have been approached from a different angle. “I think we have dropped the ball during this disaster, and it is not popular what I am going to say; because most persons are glad for the duty free…I felt that too many things were allowed to become duty free during this time because you give away all your revenue,” Hon. Fahie explained. Instead of just offering duty free imports, the Opposition Leader suggested that Government should have pushed to implement consumer protection laws in the BVI. “It was a beautiful time to rush the consumer protection legislation, and to bring the penalties very severe for anyone that doesn’t pass on the savings that the businesses would have received. As a result of whatever they would have reduced the duties or whatever to help the people, but the more our businesses make money the more the businesses will have the civil and corporate responsibility to hire our people,” Hon. Fahie said.
He further explained that with the legislation Government would have been better able to persuade the businesses to pass the savings on to the people. “When you give away all that revenue you put yourself in a bind, because now you have nothing coming in but bills still to pay.”
Hon. Fahie noted that the BVI has now become a cash only society and he said that this situation further prompts better money circulation. “Now I know a lot of people are glad for this, but then most of our people still don’t have cash because everything right now is cash, no cheques, just cash. By the time our people get cash even from the insurance companies it’s not going to be until three, four months down the road. At the end of the day this was a grand time to help push the businesses, but make them accountable.”
“Having done that we would make sure that we get help from both inside and outside without compromising our people in the rebuilding of the new BVI that we are building, because we have to be careful to make sure that those who are helping us we are fair to them, but we are not unfair to our people.”
“This is a case where we dropped the ball in making stronger business people, but making them more accountable. That would have helped solve the price gouging. Instead of rushing the Curfew Law, this I thought was a legislation at this time needed to be the primary one to come out. It would have helped a lot of things but also allow government to still get revenue, the people to get a good price and the businesses to be accountable,” the Leader of the Opposition added.