Bahamian leader calls for removal of ticket taxes
The outgoing chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has suggested that his CARICOM colleagues consider the removal of taxes on airline tickets in order to lower the cost of travel to and through the region.
In his final address as Chairman, Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie told the official opening ceremony of the CARICOM Heads of Government summit at Hilton Barbados, the social and economic benefits from tourism to the region exceeded the ticket taxes.
The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has reported that visitors to the Caribbean spent an estimated US$29.5 billion last year.
Caribbean nationals repeatedly complain about the high cost of air travel through the region, which the airlines have blamed on government taxes, and which could be as high as 65 per cent of the ticket cost.
Christie, who handed over the CARICOM chairmanship to Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, also called for changes to the rules of air transportation and shipping in an effort to improve the lives of the people of the Caribbean.
Meantime, the Bahamian leader made an impassioned plea for a review of the criteria used by donors to give foreign aid to small developing states in the region.
Christie said the notion of tying development to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should not be the only criterion for small, vulnerable economies such as Barbados.
He argued that the withdrawal of one major investor or a hurricane strike could wipe out a country’s entire GDP, putting the jobs of thousands of people on the line.
He also warned fellow heads that unless serious attention was placed on young people, the future of the region would be in jeopardy.