Serious Money Troubles”– Says Opposition Leader

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Leader of the Opposition and Third District, Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser bemoaned recent tax increases at a community meeting held in his District on 20 October, and told his constituents that this is a sign of a government in trouble.
Hon. Fraser announced that Government’s bid to raise more revenue should be analyzed by citizens: “No one should be surprised that Government is on a tax hike spree, because that is exactly what Governments in trouble do to raise money, and this Government is having serious money troubles.”
The Leader of the Opposition noted the line of credit that the government secured with CIBC First Caribbean bank and said that the fact that the government needed a loan to finance everyday expense is most concerning: “This is the first Government in modern history to ever borrow money to meet its day to day obligations. Remember the controversial $25 million line of credit from CIBC First Caribbean?”
Hon. Fraser brought up the passenger tax increase that was implemented during the last administration, and said that USVI relatives are no longer visiting often as a result: “Raising the passenger tax to $20 has placed an undue burden on travelers which has caused many to reconsider their choices. Virgin Islanders residing in St. Thomas have opted not to come during the holidays, when in the past it was fashionable to do.”
The recent increase of the Territory’s accommodation tax to 10 percent was also mentioned: “A change in the Hotel Accommodation tax from 7% to 10% does not discriminate between the rich visitor and the poor local staying at a hotel. God in heaven knows that I have personally utilized hotel accommodations to rescue abused mothers and their children, and even disaster victims for weeks at a time.”
Additionally, Hon. Fraser stated that the implementation of the National Health Insurance created another financial obligation for citizens and residents. “The National Health Insurance Tax of 7 & ½ percent remains an unconscionable burden. Small businesses can’t afford it, and neither can the employees afford the resulting 3 & ¾ percent salary cut.”
He also accused the Government of looking at the situation from an unfair angle:
“This Government has resorted to looking through the lenses of the big businesses which can easily pass the cost on to their rich clients, leaving local small businesses to go under.”
The Leader of the Opposition further disclosed that there are rumors of issues surrounding the recent minimum wage increase: “I have already heard of the fallout with the minimum wage increase from $4 to $6 an hour, which took effect October 1st.”
As it relates to the minimum wage increase he added: “Last year I warned that as long as there is no Consumer Protection Legislation in place, nothing will change. In my mind, merchants and other businesses would just increase the cost of goods and services, but some have gone as far as cutting employees hours to maintain a payroll figure, while others have gone the more drastic route of firing.”

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