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The United Progressive Party (UPP) has expressed concerns regarding the recent decision to increase the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) by 2%
The UPP believes that the government could have consulted with the people before making such a decision, as a promise was made by the Government spokesman Lionel “Max” Hurst a week ago.
The UPP says understands that the government intended to pacify the public with its references to the zero-rated basket of food items.
However, the UPP believes this is not enough since all other consumer goods and services are subject to the ABST, and the increase in the sales tax will inevitably raise the cost of living.
In a statement to the media on Friday, the UPP highlighted that on high-ticket items, such as a refrigerator valued at $5,000, a 2 percent increase would mean an additional $100 paid in ABST.
Similarly, building materials valued at $100,000 would experience a $2,000 tax increase. The cost of legal, medical, and other services, as well as the importation of goods at the Port, will also be affected, according to the UPP.
The Antigua Labour Party Government is currently offering a 9 percent salary increase to public-sector workers; a move that the UPP believes is an attempt to stifle dissent.
The UPP considers this unacceptable, accusing the government of collecting more revenues than any other administration in its two-plus terms in office, with less to show for it than any previous administration.
The UPP said the government gave away over $300 million in tax concessions this year alone, yet, they claim that the Customs Department announced its record-breaking collection of $327 million in the first 10 months of 2023 without employing an aggressive and efficient tax-collection mechanism.
The UPP said it is also concerned about the hardship that will be inflicted on the poor, who already face an 80 cents-per-hour increase in the minimum wage, and the shrinking middle class, with further tax increases expected.
Therefore, the UPP said will consult with trade unions, employer organizations, church, and other civil-society groups to craft a unified resistance to this increase.
The UPP encourages all public and private-sector workers, consumers, and organizations to let their opposition to this increase be heard and felt when a protest action is called.