Increased taxes on phone and internet, gasoline, car rentals and the surcharges due to be imposed on all imported goods will soon raise the cost of living even further for all residents of the TCI.
The tax on phone and internet services -- long set at 10% -- is now being raised to 12% (a 20% rate increase). The tax on gasoline, originally imposed by the previous Michael Misick government and twice raised to a total of 75 cents per gallon, will now be 85 cents (per US gallon). This is a 15% increase.
Car rentals will now be taxed at 12% of the cost. A $300 rental will now cost $336.
The fee on professional services due to be imposed in October has been set aside. This would have been a tax on legal and other professional fees and would have mainly affected those in the higher income brackets.
The increased taxes, which will go into effect in October, join the 6% service fee on all imports and the 15% tax on the freight and insurance costs of imports. Also a 1% jump (representing a 9% rate increase) in the hospitality tax is going forward.
However, ministers, who are provided substantial salaries, along with vehicle, gasoline and phone allowances by the government, will not feel the pinch soon to be borne by the 32,000 residents of TCI.
The taxes are a continuing attempt by the current Progressive National Party (PNP) government not only to balance the budget but to create a revenue surplus that can be used to pay down the balance of the $260 million loan arranged by the interim government to pay down a portion of the outstanding bills run up by the Michael Misick-led PNP government of 2003-2009. According to earlier statements by finance minister Washington Misick (Michael Misick’s brother), there will be no spending cuts. This includes the ongoing cost of health care, which includes the $4 million per bed hospital construction mortgage, and the cost of Interhealth Canada (IHC), which is budgeted to remain at $42 million per year.
IHC on the other hand appears to making cuts in its own cost of overseas referrals. First switching from US health providers, where millions are still owed, to Jamaica and The Bahamas. Currently, IHC is also making the referrals to the Dominican Republic, only 100 miles away.
IHC had also promised to provide lab services, including comprehensive blood tests. However, they now appear to be outsourcing these, resulting in an increase in the cost of blood tests for work permits from a two-day waiting period and $50 charge to a $200 charge and two- to three-week waiting period.