Gov’t cannot afford ABST-reduction weekend this Christmas, and admits the sales tax is its most reliable source of income

After spending – or, according to some residents, “wasting” –
taxpayers’ money in an attempt to win the St. Mary’s South by-
election, the people will not be enjoying the ABST-reduction
weekend this Christmas.

Based on reports in other media affiliated with Prime Minister
Gaston Browne, the much-anticipated social programme will not be
implemented this year. Its cancellation is to facilitate the
Government’s aim to “enhance its financial position to meet
increasing obligations.”
Further, that media house confirmed the likelihood of an increase in
the ABST rate, and it describes the sales tax as potentially the
country’s most reliable taxation method.

It is alleged that the cancellation of the tax-reduction weekend is
part of a broader strategy to supplement Government’s income and
to meet its monthly obligations, in particular salaries.
Reportedly, the Administration is hoping it will be able to make
timely salary payments in December without the encumbrance of
the tax-reduction initiative.
The initiative was introduced by the United Progressive Party
Administration more than a decade ago and was intended to ease
the squeeze on consumers and stimulate economic activity during
the busy Christmas season.
Meanwhile, residents are reacting to the shocking news: If the ABST
is the country’s most reliable tax, one person says, then all the blows
the UPP took for implementing it were unwarranted, especially
since it appears to be the saving grace of the Browne

“It was once the Citizenship by Investment Programme, which the
UPP also implemented; but this government has run that into the
ground, making it no longer attractive,” the resident adds.
The Government has promised a 14 percent salary increase to
public servants – with 9 percent outstanding.

However, critics say that Browne is giving a raise with one hand, but
expecting to take it away with the next, given the proposed 2
percent increase in the sales tax; the increase in Social Security
contributions; and the expected hike in water rates.

The critic notes that the UPP introduced a number of social
programmes that have either been corrupted or not implemented in
the correct way.

He points to the Dollar Barrel – now the $10 Barrel – as an example,
suggesting that the country’s “economic powerhouse” status should
have seen the rate reduced to 50 cents.

Meanwhile,  the public should get some insights into the country’s
fiscal position come December 14, when Browne, the minister of
finance, delivers the national budget via the Appropriations Bill,

Another resident, commenting on the situation, says, “Red is really
stale bread, because that is all Gaston has to offer people.”
The prime minister continues to boast that Antigua and Barbuda has
one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, “but all we get is
the bread plait,” the person adds.

He believes that Browne is playing with the people’s emotions,
saying there will be no ABST reduction when, at the last minute, he
intends to changd his mind and say he listened to the cries of the
people and gave it, anyway.
The man concludes that Browne is “always playing games.”