“There will be no new taxes” – PM Chastanet promises in Budget Address

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

[StLuciaTimes] Prime Minister Allen Chastanet on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, presented a $1.4 billion tax-free budget for the financial year 2018/2019 under the theme “Building Resilience Today to Secure Our Future”.

Chastanet, who is also the Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service, emphasised during his Budget Address at the House of Assembly that no new taxes will be introduced in this financial year.

“This budget has been prepared without introducing any new taxes. I wish to emphasize, there will be no new taxes. The only adjustment to revenue, comes from the removal of the cap on fuel, as world oil prices have increased considerably in comparison to prices last year,” he said.

“The total budget amounts to one billion, four hundred and eighty-seven million, five hundred and eighty-three thousand, two hundred dollars ($1,487, 583,200) representing a 1.8 percent reduction from the Approved Estimates in 2017/18. However, it represents an increase of 8.9 percent over the preliminary outturn,” Chastanet said.

He added: “Of the amount budgeted for 2018/19, recurrent expenditure accounts for 80.8 percent and amounts to one billion, two hundred and two million, nine hundred and fifty-five thousand, three hundred dollars ($1,202,955,300), while capital expenditure accounts for 19.2 percent and amounts to $284.63 million. The budgeted amount for recurrent expenditure includes $137.05 million for debt principal repayments.”

The prime minister said four “major” areas have been identified as “limiting factors to sustainable growth in Saint Lucia”, and these have all been addressed by this budget statement and will be the focus of his government for the remaining three budget cycles: “Investing in our people, upgrading our physical infrastructure, improving Public Sector efficiency and managing the cost of debt”.

He said the government’s focus on these areas will lay the foundation for the building of a “new Saint Lucia and must be “implemented simultaneously to achieve the growth we are desirous of achieving. It is paramount that we understand that underperformance of any one of these four pillars can potentially undermine the success of the whole”.

Chastanet announced plans to invest over $1 billion in capital expenditure — over the next three budget cycles — in order to construct new and rehabilitate existing infrastructure.

He said “confirmed” public sector projects include: the redevelopment of the Hewanorra International Airport, road rehabilitation including the West Coast road and Millennium Highway, construction of the Dennery and Soufriere polyclinics; John Compton Dam Rehabilitation Project; Dennery and Vieux Fort Water Supply Projects; and reconstruction of bridges in Cul de Sac.

The financing for all of these projects, he said, has been secured and “the political will to develop Saint Lucia is stronger than ever”.

“We have been able to secure much of the funding for the above projects through the relentless efforts to source grant and concessional funding. The remaining funding will come from revenue sources which have already been identified,” he sad.

In addition, government is at an “advanced” stage in finalizing the financing for the construction of the Halls of Justice, police headquarters and Gros-Islet Police Station, Chastanet said.

“This will mean the creation of more jobs, more opportunities for personal advancement and a better quality of life for all Saint Lucians. All of these projects are transformative, and will each in some way impact the lives of all Saint Lucians,” Chastanet promised.

“In addition to significant public sector investment, we can also expect an equally robust programme of private sector investment in the coming years. We can look forward to the construction of 6 new resorts within the coming years, with investments totalling over 700 million dollars. This too will translate into sustainable jobs for our people throughout the island,” he added.

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