Air Passenger Duty Tax
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
December 06, 2011 (CUOPM)
St. Kitts and Nevis‘ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Sen. the Hon. Richard Skerritt has slammed the United Kingdom Government for its continued discrimination against the Caribbean in relation to the banding aspect of the Air Passenger Duty (APD) system.
“Today’s announcement on the APD is a slap in the face for all Caribbean people. It dismisses all of the research and information CTO has provided to the British Government over the past three years, and it contradicts the message sent by the UK Chancellor, George Osborne MP, in March 2011 when he cited the discrepancy between the USA and Caribbean APD rates as one of the reasons for holding a consultation on reform of UK APD. The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region of the world and the British Government’s decision totally ignores the negative effect that APD is having on our economies and the Caribbean’s business partners in the UK travel industry,” said Minister Skerritt in a statement in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon and similar to one issued by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) of which he is the Chairman for the past year.
“It is a slap in the face of Caribbean people because at no point in recent months has the Caribbean being led to believe that its concerns would not be addressed. Mr Speaker, as recently as the second week in November I sat face to face with a senior Minister in the United Kingdom Treasury who reassured me that the British Government was sensitive to our concerns and would be announcing shortly a decision that would have addressed the issue of parity,” said Minister Skerritt.
He said it is a matter that Caribbean Governments would have to raise in the near future with the United Kingdom and hoped the issue would again be raised at the upcoming United Kingdom-Caribbean Forum in mid-January 2012 in Grenada.
“I would hope that our Ministers of Foreign Affairs and others who will be participating would be very thoroughly briefed,” said Minister Skerritt.
“I say it is a slap in the face because the UK Government’s announcement in effect says it will continue to discriminate against the Caribbean. It says that APD rates to the Caribbean will be continue to be considerably higher than some competitor destinations. It said that Premium Economy passengers will continue to be charged the same APD as First Class passengers,” said Minister Skerritt.
“This is a real blow to some of our people (nationals), visitors, who try to upgrade to a slightly and more roomy area of the aircraft. These are not people who are terribly wealthy and can just dismiss a tax of this scale,” he said.
“Mr. Speaker, the announcement contradicts the message sent by the UK Chancellor in March 2011 when he cited that the discrepancy between the USA and the Caribbean rates as one of the reasons for holding such a consultation. Mr. Speaker, it is slap in the face because the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world and the British Government decision totally ignores the negative effect that it is having on our economy,” the Minister told lawmakers.
He continued: “It is a slap in the face. The data shows that Diaspora travel has been significantly reduced since the introduction of the APD in 2009. There is no sector of the market that has reduced its level of travel to the Caribbean more significantly than our Diaspora, Mr. Speaker.”
Minister Skerritt said much of Diaspora travel is not for pleasure. “It is a necessity. I am talking about Caribbean people resident in the United Kingdom who have to come home for family reasons, funerals, illness, investment related matters, retirees who want to get away from the cold and get some sun and those who maintain contact with their grandchildren. These are not people that have an abundance of wealth and can afford increasing, ridiculously high rates of taxation. These people have been hurt most.
The Diaspora has been lobbying hard on this issue and many MP’s who have heard the message and have taken up the cause it is also a slap in their faces as well. It is a slap in the face of those MP’s who have shown an interest on behalf of their constituents. It is slap in the face of the Caribbean High Commissioners who have band together as a Caribbean unit in the UK and work with the Diaspora on this matter.”
He said it is a time for the Caribbean to speak out and let the British Government know that we are not happy.
“It is a time for Caribbean leaders at all levels to understand that this is about a serious economic matter and this matter will not go away just by wishing it away,” said Minister Skerritt.