UPP calls for unified resistance from the people in response to Browne Administration’s unilateral decision to hike ABST

A unified resistance from the people: That is what the United
Progressive Party (UPP) is calling for in response to the 2 percent
increase on the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST).
In a statement issued on Friday, November 24, the Party says it is
disgusted by the Browne Administration’s autocratic imposition of
the tax hike without consulting the people.
Damani Tabor, the UPP public relations officer, says the Party cares
deeply for the poor and for the vulnerable members of the society.
Therefore, it fully condemns any further taxes on the people, many
of whom are still struggling and unemployed.

 Last week, Government spokesman Lionel “Max” Hurst said the
Administration would consult with stakeholders ahead of any
adjustment in the rate of the ABST.

Accordingly, Tabor is asking why the promised public forums were
not held before the Government unilaterally placed a greater
economic burden on the backs of the people.

He predicts that this tax hike will become a catalyst for increased
crime, which already is at an all-time high, and for more small and
medium-size businesses to fail.
The Administration is attempting to pacify the public with
references to the zero-rated basket of food items, the UPP notes.
However, it adds, the Government is downplaying the fact that all
other consumer goods and services are subject to the ABST, and the
increase in the sales tax will undoubtedly drive up the cost of living.
For instance, it says, the ABST on a refrigerator costing $5,000 will
increase by $100, while building materials valued at $100,000 will
attract an extra $2,000 in the sales tax. The cost of legal, medical,
and other services will be similarly affected, as will the importation
of goods at the Port, the UPP says.
Given these stark realities, Tabor says the UPP will embark on
consultations with trade unions and employer organizations, as well
as church and other civil-society groups. Together, it hopes that a
unified resistance to the unconscionable increase can be crafted.
The UPP says the Antigua Labour Party Government “is now
attempting to stifle dissent by dangling the carrot of a 9 percent
salary increase before public-sector workers.”

This is like giving with one hand and taking it back with the other,
critics say, as the 2 percent hike is expected to increase ABST
revenues by 13 percent – or an additional $40 million in the
Government’s coffers.
The UPP reminds the Administration that it has collected more
revenues in its two-plus terms than any other administration.
However, there is less to show for it than any previous
administration, the Party says.
Therefore, Tabor is admonishing all public and private-sector
workers, consumers, and organizations to let their opposition to the
increase be heard and felt by joining the Party when protest action
is called.