St Lucia opposition wants health levy removed

Castries, St Lucia – The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) is calling for the “immediate and complete suspension” of the 2.5 per cent health and security levy that went into effect on October 2.

In a statement, the party said that the levy is an additional burden on St Lucians, already grappling with a rising cost of living, the adverse impact on the local business community, and the volatile global economic climate.

“We call on the Phillip J. Pierre administration to spare no effort in completely abolishing this ill-conceived measure. The Health and Security Levy has had an unquantifiable negative impact on ordinary consumers, especially vulnerable citizens who are already burdened by the increasing costs of everyday commodities,” the UWP said.

It said that even before the imposition of this tax, essential items such as bread, electricity bills, with a 30 per cent increase, food in supermarkets, LPG cooking gas, petroleum, diesel, and even bus fares “have seen unsustainable price hikes.

“It is evident that this tax has burdened an already dire situation. Therefore, we demand for an immediate and total suspension,” the UWP said, adding that “the business community is also grappling with the repercussions of this policy”.

“The Health and Security Levy is unquestionably hindering the private sector’s ability to expand and create jobs, especially considering the unemployment rate, which stands at unacceptable levels according to the Economic and Social Review.

“The tax must be immediately and completely suspended. We are disappointed that the government did not heed the Chamber of Commerce’s call to postpone the tax until January 2024.”

The government has defended its decision to implement the levy arguing that its implementation “is one measure that aims to support our economy and provide necessary funding for essential services, namely health and security.

“We once again take this opportunity to state that the 2.5 per cent health and security levy will not be on food items, medication, medical equipment, security equipment, and selected building material. Therefore, we do not expect an increase in the price of these items at their point of purchase locally unless prices increase overseas.”

In August, the St. Lucia Manufacturers Association (SMA) had written to Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre, seeking an “urgent” meeting with him to discuss the impact of the levy. (CMC)