A joint briefing by Dutch Government Representative Wilbert Stolte and the Executive Council on Tuesday highlighted the fiscal and social measures taken during the Caribbean Netherlands Week, held in October, in The Hague. Stolte emphasized that State Secretary of Finance Frank Weekers had made provision for a number of fiscal measures to lower taxes for businesses and increase the purchasing power of citizens in the Caribbean Netherlands. He expected this to be reflected in a lowering in ABB Spending Tax on the expanded list of products, which will be exempted from this tax from January 1, 2013.
When asked how they plan to ensure that the prices of basic consumer products which will be exempted from ABB will indeed be lowered by January 1, 2013, Commissioners Bruce Zagers and Chris Johnson said that Bonaire already has a system in place. This system could also be used in Saba in a more simplified manner. KPMG will be approached to assist the islands with setting up a unified system and in monitoring its implementation for at least the first six months. Other methods to control prices will include the implementation of island ordinances and the advertising of a price list for basic products which are exempted from ABB.
Stolte explained that the responsibility for price policy lies with the local authorities. He also emphasized that businesses have the main responsibility to lower prices on ABB-tax exempted products. He appealed to citizens and the media to monitor the prices in stores in keeping with the new tax relief measures.
When asked in what other areas besides the ABB reduction consumers would be able to improve their purchasing power, the Government Representative said that several measures in the area of social allowances will also be introduced in January 2013. The extraordinary benefits (bijzondere bijstand or onderstand in Dutch) will be broadened and there will be an increase of the extra allowance for fully and permanently disabled persons.
Commissioner Zagers said a meeting was held with Prime Minister of St. Maarten Sarah Wescot- Williams last week to discuss the double taxation on products exported from St. Maarten to Saba. He said this issue was “an ongoing matter.”
Commissioner Johnson said that during the Caribbean Netherlands Week it was also decided to lower the excise on gasoline with US $0.10. There is no excise on diesel. Johnson said this was the first time ever consumers will be receiving a relief on the gasoline price. In the old system the highest decrease would be estimated at NAf. 0.05. The Executive Council said they were open to Stolte’s proposal for a budgeting programme to teach consumers how to spend their money more wisely.
During the press conference, Stolte also highlighted the results of the Perception Study Caribbean Netherlands, which showed that citizens of Bonaire, Statia and Saba are more pleased with the services of the Dutch Government than they were one year ago. Government Representative Stolte visited Saba Monday and Tuesday as part of his regular consultations with the Executive Council. He also travelled to St. Eustatius for meetings with the Executive Council, and will join the Statia Day celebrations on Friday.
Stolte will be visiting Saba again in December, for follow-up meetings and for the Saba Day celebrations on December 7.