Despite its passage in the senate lingering doubts about the timing of the implementation of the Value Added Tax System persists.
Consternation over the pending tax reform process was palpable during the VAT bill debate in the Senate on Tuesday.
Opposition Senator Ezechiel Joseph worries the impact the tax will have on the rural poor and perceived expansion of government.
His colleague Andy Daniel meanwhile is skeptical about the state of readiness. While the opposition remains incredulous, business interests in the senate fear the attendant costs and implications of the transition phase.
Senator and businesswoman Debra Tobiere supports the premise of VAT but doubts bonded warehouses can help the private sector liquidate inventory before the implementation date, stoking fears of possible double taxation.
Former SLHTA President, Senator Berthia Parle recommends more flexibility on the hotel accommodation tax phase.
She also worries tax-averse cruise lines could hurt local tour operators in the tourism sector.
Although the senators want an additional deferment they concede a VAT free Christmas remains an elusive dream.
Government Senators argue expanding the tax base will generate revenue for social safety nets and the provision of essential services including healthcare and education.
Minister Dr. James Fletcher candidly admits an equitable tax system is not the primary motive.
Independent Senators have called for more public education and sensitization on the intricacies and merits of the tax.
The VAT Bill went through all its stages and was passed in the Senate with an amendment. But Leader of government business, Senator Victor Phillip La Corbiniere says the process does not end with the enactment of the law which is still subject to revision and refinement as the debate rages on.
PM writes on APD Story byCarmy Joseph
Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny D. Anthony has written to UK Chancellor George Osborne, raising concerns over what he says is the “deleterious effect” the UK Air Passenger Duty continues to have on the economies of the Caribbean.
While Dr. Anthony acknowledges “The Caribbean understands the fiscal challenge faced by the UK in respect of raising revenue,” he does not believe the “APD should be imposed unfairly, or at the
expense of the Caribbean economy and our community in the UK.” The Prime Minister pointed out “the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region of the world, one that is developmental and should be contributing to growth at a time of economic difficulty.”
He reminded the UK Chancellor data showed the APD was hampering the region’s ability to obtain greatest benefit from its most valuable export industry.
In addition “it also has a significant financial impact on the UK companies, large and small, with which we partner and for whom the Caribbean has been a major market. It is also hurting our sizeable Caribbean community living in the United Kingdom”.
In Saint Lucia, UK arrivals declined every year for the past three years – in 2012 arrivals fell 19.4% below the 2008 level while 2011 registered 14.4% less than the same period.
The Prime Minister ended the letter by expressing hope for an amicable solution to the issue.
Kayak protest Story bySarah Peter
Environmentalists Alberto De Jesus and Abderramai Brenes La Roche visited our offices Tuesday morning to sensitize St. Lucians on an international kayak protest they are spearheading.
The two men and their partners want to liberate Puerto Rican Nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera who was convicted and sentenced to seventy years in prison for rebellion against the government.
La Roche maintains Rivera was unjustifiably incarcerated and is hoping his action will gain support from the Caribbean region for his release.
La Roche compares the present case to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela who was arrested in 1962 and convicted of sabotage.
He was released after serving 27 years in prison. Meanwhile, activist, Alberto de Jesus who started the Kayak protest trip is adamant protestors are willing to go to the extreme in order to attain liberation for Rivera.
Oscar Lopez Rivera has been jailed for 31 years at different prisons in the United States. Rivera is said to be among the longest held political prisoners in the history of Puerto Rico and in the world.
Environmental Leader, Alberto De Jesus also known as Tito Kayak started his trip on June 22 from Venezuela with stops at Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, Martinique, and Guadeloupe.
He is expected to end in Puerto Rico.
Dr Lewis on mock exams Story bySant Justin
The Minimum Standards Test and Common Entrance Exam has been part of our Primary Education for decades.
Recently - the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) implemented new initiatives aimed at introducing regional standards to students graduating out of the primary school system.
The Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) focuses on a set of skills that are critical if
students are to optimize achievement at the next level of education. Although it has not been implemented in St. Lucia, talks of introducing an assessment system for pupils leaving Primary School has been a discussion point in the Ministry for some time.
Education Minister- Dr. Robert Lewis last week made reference to the Labor Party’s Blueprint for Growth which assures all common entrance students a place at the secondary level.
He believes one of the steps towards a more effective primary education system is the elimination of the Mock Minimum Standards Test.
Dr. Lewis says the Minimum Standards Test is centered on the needs of students; an assessment that ought to aid learning.
The Mock examination he says creates anxiety in the school system.
Dr. Lewis expressed much confidence in the assessment process at the Primary School level, where he beliefs teachers are in the best position to assist the students.
On going works Story byAndrew Mondesir
The work began near the Sandals Halcyon from Saturday morning with the intention of removing the dangerous concrete medians from a blind spot around the nearby corner.
They are being replaced by high visibility traffic delineators all the way up to the Choc medians.
These will be placed along 750 meters of road. In the first week-end – close to 100 meters were covered but this will be intensified next week-end.
The delineator posts were chosen because of their high visibility and resistance to fading.
The flexible barricades being planted along the route are designed to minimise damage to vehicles should their veer unto the curb.
The Ministry for Infrastructure is also calling on motorists to observe the speed limits in place, as one way of preventing serious traffic accidents on the roads in St. Lucia.
Carnival finalists dip Story bySant Justin
As Soca and Calypso artistes get ready for the final leg of competition this weekend, the Carnival Stakeholder Committee on Tuesday sought to seal the deal on appearance positions.
The finalists of the three competitions all met at CDF’s conference room to dip for their positions on competition night.
The stakeholder committee also had additional good news for the artistes in the form of financial assistance towards their performance costs.
12 artistes will compete against reigning Groovy Monarch King Ricky T, who also holds the Power Soca Monarch title.
Tobierre says while the grants were offered, requests for increased prize pots were not granted.
The Ministry of Creative Industries will also produce a fully funded Music Video, to be aired on TV stations around the region.
The Carnival Stakeholder Committee has also warned on behalf of the Fire Service and other entities over looking the final competitions, artistes should register their props that use fire.
National queen show Story byLovely St.Aime Joseph
Miss Super J Janelle Desir is the newly crowned national carnival queen. She was crowned during the annual pageant held on Saturday at the National Cultural Centre.
Seven young ladies showcased themselves in five segments: an introductory number, talent, costume, evening wear and interview segments.
Miss Super J during a tour of CFL on Friday had promised her sponsor she would for the first time bring the crown home to the company.
On Saturday night she made good on her promise, delivering solid and consistent performances throughout the night.
She also captured the individual prize for best performance in costume. In addition - the Soufriere native also won the People’s Choice award.
Miss First National Bank Sheena Francis won Best Swimwear and Best Interview, Miss Cultural Community Sadia Hippolyte Best Eveningwear while Best Interview went to Miss Gros-Islet Business Community Tamika Gaskin.
The interview segment posed a particular challenge for contestants. When the points were tallied by the pageant’s slew of judges the results were as follows:2nd Runner Up: 285 points, Miss Kershara Williams 1st Runner Up: 286 points, Miss Cultural Community Sadia Hippolyte and Carnival Queen, Miss Super J Janelle Desir with 305.5 points,.
Highlights of the national carnival queen show included an appearance by Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam who co hosted the show with radio personality Pringles.
The crowd went into frenzy and called for an encore after a sizzling dance performance. Local soca acts Teddyson John and Ricky T also performed during the show as well as local dances troupes.
While the CDF declared the event a success many have commented on the national pageant not being treated with the same stature that it used to command.
UWI lecture Story bySant Justin
The University of the West Indies St. Lucia Open Campus on Monday evening hosted a public lecture at the college grounds on the Morne.
The session focused on improving St. Lucia’s education system by taking a page from the education sector in Finland.
The Finnish Education System has been rated one of the best in the world for a number of years.
Head of UWI Open Campus- Veronica Simon says the intent of the session is to stimulate informative debate among those present.
Simon says St. Lucia’s student body continues to perform badly. The lecture was delivered by Finnish Ambassador to CARICOM- Mikko Pyhala.
His Excellency explains Finland incorporates different measures into its education sector which differs from the methods employed in Caribbean.
Pyhala says they conduct alter evaluations of each student, class and school. School teachers in the Finnish Education Sector are also said to be the main decision makers in that country.
The initiative was also lauded by St. Lucia’s Education Minister who was present at the activity, along with other Ministry officials and the Governor General.
Eduval Story bySarah Peter
Organizers of Eduval are continuing to develop student involvement in the annual carnival spectacle with a number of activities.
A school Jam and a Miss Eduval pageant are the new activities expected to take place later this week.
The initiatives are being spearheaded by Camdu.
They follow a recently held Costume Creation show which was held by the Carnival Bands
Association in collaboration with CAMDU on June 8th. Theatre Arts Curriculum Officer, Kentilia Louis says the activities are designed to provide more opportunities for students to participate in St Lucia Carnival.
Louis says the activities are also a learning tool and an avenue for youth development. Students from both primary and secondary schools will perform in and view the planned activities.
The School Jam is expected to be held on Thursday 12th July for primary schools and Friday 13th for Secondary schools. Both events will be staged at the National Cultural Center.
Miss Eduval will be held on Saturday 21st July at the same venue.
Commerce workshop Story bySarah Peter
A workshop aimed at educating companies about import licenses and distribution goods got underway Tuesday at the Sunbuilt Training Room in Cedars.
The three day initiative is being held by the Ministry of Commerce in collaboration with GL Food Supermarket and Peter and Company.
Information Assistant Damian Monrose says the workshop is very important in order to prevent problems at the island’s sea ports.
Human Resource Officer at GL Food Supermarket, Noami Wilson says initiatives like these are essential to her organization.
Wilson added such initiatives make companies more aware of what items they are allowed to import thereby avoiding problems at ports of entry.
Senate discusses VAT
PM writes on APD
Dr Lewis on mock exams
On going works
Carnival finalists dip
National queen show
Subventions from government are paid to all aspects of Saint Lucia Carnival. That means taxpayers subsidize everything from bands, to shows and community events. The cash injection is in addition to the bulk funding provided by government to the entity that manages the festival – for the past two years that has been the Stakeholder Committee and before them it was the CDF. Three Carnival bands including the reigning Band of the Year have dropped out of competition due in part to funding constraints. Other associations like the National Carnival Queen Committee and tent leaders have lamented dwindling sponsorship dollars and the need for government funding.
But is it fair to expect Saint Lucians to pay for a product they ultimately have to purchase in the way of costumes, tent shows and events?
Is it realistic for Carnival stakeholders to expect government to subsidize their contribution to the festival?