By Theresa Goodwin
Exploitation by some users who may not necessarily need the service is one of the primary reasons why the government will close the pandemic relief barrel programme at the end of the month, with no further extensions.
Similar to the Dollar Barrel Initiative, the pandemic relief barrel programme was introduced last year to give residents the opportunity to import food, clothing, toiletries and personal hygiene products for a nominal fee of $10 per barrel. The consignees were also exempted from paying Customs duties and the Antigua Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST).
The Covid-19 relief programme had been extended on several occasions over the past few months. However, Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced over the weekend that there will be no further extensions this time around.
“It is being used by other individuals, who are not necessarily in need, to circumvent paying taxes on certain goods, many of which are hidden at the bottom of those barrels; the cost of the lot is far greater.
“Over 19,000 plus barrels have come into the country free of taxes and duties that is part of the subsidy that my government would have given. We get no credit for these things, but we do so because we wanted to protect the poor and the vulnerable, but it is being exploited and we have to put an end to it,” Browne said.
Late last week, the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda noted that under the initiative, more than 18,000 barrels have arrived in the country and the value of the duties and ABST foregone have exceeded EC $3,500,000.