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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the tremendous economic burden that it has brought with it, the government said that it has decided to close the duty free concession window.

While speaking on Observer AM yesterday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed the aforementioned.

He said, “The situation necessitates that type of policy decision. We cannot be giving concessions and struggle to pay salary and wages. Collecting revenue so that we can pay salaries and wages and other critical essential expenses – that’s the priority at this point.”

He added that some concessions that have already been granted may not be offered if they do not “make it in on time”.

Instead, Browne said, “We’ve asked them to make arrangements to give them credit so they can pay over a period of time.”

Meanwhile, arrangements have been made by the government to defer debt payments as a means of securing funding for the public sector, as well as for pensioners.

Browne made the disclosure after reiterating that salary and pension payments for the month of April have been made.

“We have suspended our debt payments. If we had to prioritise debt payments at this time then clearly we will not be able to pay public servants, and we will not be able to pay pensions. Most of our creditors have agreed to a debt standstill. We have one or two who are still whining over the issue but I’m quite sure that we will come to some amicable arrangement with them eventually.

“The circumstances are such that we have no choice but to suspend those payments in order to prioritise taking care of our people,” he disclosed.

Browne explained that the economic fallout from the pandemic has significantly reduced government revenues, but maintained that the government will be “putting people first”.

“There has been at least a $50 million reduction of the $80 million that we are projecting to collect this month, so that in itself represents more than 50 percent of government’s revenue, but you know we’ve had to prioritise.”

The Prime Minister added that – in the event the government does not soon benefit from an economic turnaround – there are options in place to cover the month of May.

He said, however, these are largely options to borrow, and the government would bide its time before any concrete decisions are made.

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