BASSETERRE, St Kitts – The political leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party and leader of the opposition, Dr Denzil Douglas provided the nation with his Next-Gen SKN Vision 2020 plans in his response to the Appropriation Bill (2020), 2019 in the National Assembly.
In true statesmanlike manner, the former prime minister and minister of finance, on Friday laid out his party’s plans in several areas including a reduction in Value Added Vat (VAT), housing, education, and agriculture.
He said the St Kitts-Nevis labour party has always been an excellent steward of the economy and every progressive step that the Nation has ever made has been taken under a labour administration.
“The 2020 Vision of the NextGen SKN labour administration is designed to take our country yet again to an even higher level. At the center of our vision is our deep and abiding commitment to do all the good that we can do and put people first,” Dr Douglas told parliamentarians and the Nation.
With general elections to be held in 2020, Dr Douglas said a new labour administration will allow one duty-free vehicle for every adult over the age of 18.
“Traditionally duty-free vehicles are automatically provided to government ministers, senior civil servants, select friends, and diplomats. Now we are saying it is time we extend the privilege to all our citizens and residents so that you are able to receive one vehicle in your whole lifetime duty-free,” said Dr Douglas.
“A new labour administration will extend the full discounted VAT-day package not just at Christmas, but to three times a year – Easter, Summer, and Christmas. The days are aimed to alleviate the hardships felt by our single mothers and large families to accommodate back to school shopping with spin-off effects on stimulating our small businesses and large retailers.
“The package will be designed as follows: two-discounted VAT rate days, three times a year where all VAT registered businesses are allowed to charge VAT at a rate of five percent on the sale of goods only and all tangible items that are presently subject to 17 percent VAT qualify for the discounted VAT rate; for vehicle purchases, VAT will be exempt on the first EC$50,000, with VAT at the standard 17 percent charged thereafter; barrels/container or containers of foodstuff up to 400 pounds in weight will be allowed free of duty and taxes, and travellers and non-commercial importers will receive a duty-free allowance of EC$540 or US$200 off the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value of goods,” Dr Douglas disclosed, adding: “all VAT on taxes will be eliminated and VAT will be reduced from 17 percent to 13 percent.”
A new labour government will also implement a “Start from zero tax package to stimulate small businesses that will include: duty-free vehicle for all small business start-ups; duty-free on all equipment and furniture for all start-ups within the first year until the business is fully operationalised.
We will “Start from Zero” – “Zero hassle. Zero duty. Zero application or application fees”. No longer will our small entrepreneurs have to endure the hassle to receive these benefits. This would be an entitlement. We will establish a ministry of small enterprise, similar to the ministry of consumer affairs. The ministry will be created to give small businesses a voice and equip them with all the tools necessary to survive and thrive in a competitive environment.
“Presently our large businesses have representation through the chamber of industry and commerce. Our government will be the champion of our small businesses and will review of the unincorporated small business tax by increasing the tax-exempt threshold from EC$6,000 to EC$12,000 for all service providers and EC$37,500 to EC$50,000 for all retailers,” Dr Douglas said.
He disclosed that it will be automatic that all registered and producing farmers and fishermen will receive duty-free concession on seeds, agricultural inputs, vehicles, boats, insecticides, pesticides, tools, agricultural implements.
“This will no longer be provided on a discretionary basis. We will also re-introduce our Small Grants Scheme for our farmers,” said Dr Douglas who added that the present minister of agriculture, Eugene Hamilton “has virtually destroyed farming here in St Kitts and Nevis. Our aim is to stimulate a second agriculture revolution that would guarantee food security here in St Kitts and Nevis and stimulate the production of value-added commodities such as beverages, tonics, soaps and candles as part of the new health and wellness industry.”
With a record of housing in St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Douglas said a new NEXTGen labour government will construct 2,000 modern, affordable houses that will accommodate all the latest appliances and will be powered by solar panels.
“In an effort to provide assistance to our middle-class as well as those in the lower-income brackets, we will offer diversified housing solutions using NHC as a co-ordinator, working with private contractors to build as well as finance construction on land already owned. We will establish a special unit to assist middle-income earners directly,” said Dr Douglas.
“We will offer diversified housing solutions to meet people where they are. This would be specifically targeted at our young men who wish to use their own labour to enhance the family compound and/or acquire their own property by providing them with the necessary bundle of building materials,” said the labour party leader, who further announced that “all essential service personnel such as our police, defense force, firemen and women, our nurses and sanitation officers will receive a housing allowance.”
Education, one of the most important sectors of advancing the development of young people, will see the extension of universal, free education to the tertiary level.
“There will be no tuition fees to attend the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College. We will construct a new advanced level college in Nevis. Every student wishing to pursue undergraduate or graduate studies in a field necessary to national development will receive a grant of EC$25,000. The interest rate on student loans at the Development Bank of St Kitts and Nevis will be reduced from nine percent to five percent and we will provide debt relief to reduce the burden of student loans,” said Dr Douglas.
All primary and secondary schools will be upgraded and modernized to offer the best quality teaching and learning experience, a brand new Basseterre High School will be built at the Victoria Road location and maintenance policy for all schools will be implemented to ensure that the present mold crisis never happens again.