Chamber Discusses Prime Minister’s Budget
June 13, 2023
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Press Release
Press Release Details

An informative and highly interactive engagement, organized by the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture between the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and the Youth Economy and the members of the Chamber took place on June 6, 2023, on the 5th Floor of the Financial Administrative Center in Point Seraphine. The objective of the engagement was to discuss key elements of the recently announced Budget Measures (Prime Minister’s Budget Statement 2023), including the Health and Security Tax, the Tobacco Levy, VAT Relief on selected construction material and incentivization of installation of Photo Voltic systems. Led by the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Finance, of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Youth Economy, Mr. Francis Fontenelle, along with the Head of Research and Policy, Ms. Jemma Lafaille, the Ministry presented and overview of the country’s economic performance and forecasts, that laid the basis for the 2023/2024 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and the accompanying Budget Statement by the Honorable Philip J Pierre, where key policy pronouncements were enunciated. Some of the key points articulated included, the Budget Deficits, the recent and projected growth rates (GDP) (12% in 2021, 18% in 2022, 5.3% for 2023 and 6.3% for 2024). Debt to GDP Ratio moving from 95% in 2020, down to almost 68% in 2022 and forecasted to approach the target of 60% by 2035, set by the Monetary Council which is the highest decision-making body of the ECCB. The 2.5% Health and Security Levy, expected to recoup some EC$35 million, it is proposed to be placed upon the CIF value of imports, at the domestic level the proposal is that it be placed on services. Goods and services that are exempt or zero rated will not attract the levy, additionally, food stuff, selected pharmaceutical items, selected construction material and selected services will be exempt. Firms that fall below the VAT registration threshold will not be expected to pay the Levy. The Levy is expected to be collected at the port by the Customs & Excise Department, while domestic trade will make that payment to the Inland Revenue Department, when making their monthly VAT filings. The increased Tobacco Tax will be paid at the usual source, while the Ministry of Commerce will be charged to monitor the application of the construction material waiver.The Business Community remained fully engrossed and attentive throughout the engagements, asking many questions, offering suggestions, and making some inciteful contributions on the approach that could be pursued in application of the measures.The Chamber highlighted concerns over the added administrative and financial burden this measure would introduce, the direct impact on firm's bottom line, the dampening effect on consumption, the inflationary impact in an already high inflation environment, as well as the impact on the IT Sector as an enabling support sector. The Chamber also strongly called for Government to conduct public education and public relations exercises to inform and prepare the public for the consequent price increases some of the measures would cause. Chamber Executive Director Brian Louisy, specifically spoke to the public backlash that businesses are likely to face with price escalation which they had no control over and being unfairly accused of price gauging. Another point of caution raised by Louisy was that appropriate monitoring and measuring methods need to be utilized to determine pass through of reduced taxes, as the inflationary environment may cause a situation where the prices of goods increase due to cost of goods rising even when taxes are reduced or removed. Individual members were able to raise concerns and ask pointed questions, which the Ministry of Finance was able to adequately respond to, and where unable, agreed to follow up with responses in due course. The meeting highlighted the need for more dialogue and engagement between the public and private sectors, with P.S. Fontenelle confirming the Prime Ministers’ intention to join the next forum, and the Ministry’s agreement to meet with the Chamber on economic matters, on a regular basis moving forward. The Chamber urged the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, to utilize a broader based development approach, that would allow national objectives to dictate other micro and fiscal policy, rather than the piece meal response to sector opportunities and challenges. The Chamber also reiterated its commitment to work with the Public Sector, be frank and open with sharing its concerns, and being prepared to grasp opportunities for joint action. The meeting concluded with the Ministry promising to share their presentation, providing ample notice of the start date for the implementation of new measures, and to continue to dialogue with the Chamber and the wider private sector, on the way forward with the implementation of the Budget Measures.

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Frequently asked questions
Where is the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce located?
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The St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture is located at Orange Park Commercial Building, 1st Floor, Bois D’Orange, Gros Islet.

Is the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce part of the government?
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While most chambers work closely with government, they are not part of government  

What are the benefits of being a member of the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce?
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Advocating on behalf of members with the public sector. Increased visibility and credibility. Business training and education information sharing and networking.

What is the main purpose of the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce?
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A chamber of commerce is an organization of business owners and entrepreneurs who promote the interests of their local business community. Chambers of commerce provide access to valuable resources, discounts, and relationships that help businesses save money and market their products.

What powers does the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce have?
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Chambers of Commerce will act to promote public policies that are in the best interest of business, in general. Specific Chambers of Commerce may also attempt to promote policies that serve specific industries or geographic locations.