St Lucia opposition calls for removal of VAT on medication
ASTRIES, St Lucia - Caribbean News Now reports that the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) in St Lucia said it is appalled by revelations made by the Minister of Health Alvina Reynolds during a recent media interview, which suggest a major lapse on her part with respect to safeguarding the access to basic healthcare by St Lucians.
During the interview with a local television network, the minister admitted that her ministry had been inundated with calls from concerned Saint Lucians complaining about the rise in the cost of medication due to the imposition of 15% value added tax (VAT). The minister went on to explain that her ministry was in discussions with the VAT office to determine what can be done.
“While we note the minister’s effort at damage control, her efforts only helped to expose yet another glaring example of recklessness by the Kenny Anthony administration in pushing ahead with policies without careful analysis of the implications for the people of this country,” the UWP said in a statement, claiming that the minister’s declaration revealed that she was indeed extremely callous and incompetent in the fulfilment of her duties as the policy chief for the health sector.
“Saint Lucians who are now being negatively impacted by the increase in the cost of medication would have expected the minister to review the VAT legislation to ensure their access to medication would not have been compromised due to the new tax measure. By the minister’s own admission she appeared to have abdicated her responsibility to read the VAT documentation or to ensure that her ministry had undertaken the appropriate reviews ahead of the implementation of VAT,” the statement continued.
The UWP said that the entire process leading to the implementation of VAT has been characterised by a haphazard and rushed approach. As a result, serious cracks have appeared in a system that is only two weeks old. These shortcomings have been exposed by alarms coming from the hospitality, business and manufacturing sectors and the general population.
“Given the current financial and economic situation faced by most Saint Lucians, especially the poor, we again call on the government of Saint Lucia to revisit the provisions of the new VAT legislation and to properly examine the human costs to the country. The health and welfare of our people should not be compromised or sacrificed at the altar of the financial gain to the government,” the UWP statement concluded.