The Retail sector joined by the Restaurants sector and general Business Sector on 29th June 2022 instituted an island-wide shut-down of their businesses with over 80 establishments which span various industries in Anguilla closing their doors. The protest action which started on Wednesday, is due to continue until Friday 1st July 2022 in the first instance, which is the day on which the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act is to commence implementation. A significant Protest March is being organized for 1st July 2022.
The action of the Business community is as result of written communication from the Anguilla Business Retail sector dated 17th June 2022 in which certain alternatives to the GST Act were presented to the Government of Anguilla.
The Business community supported by the Public, believe that the GST Tax Act is too complicated, too costly and will further inflate the cost of goods in such a manner that will create serious distress and hardship to the consumer, especially in the context of the worldwide inflation.
The correspondence of the Business sector was met with defiance by the Government of Anguilla who have remained adamant that this is a required measure for them meet a fiscal gap of EC$22 million. However, the business community has highlighted in particular, that the lack of any accommodation for their existing stock which would then be increased by the 13% GST on top of the 9% Interim Goods Tax that had already been paid, would render their existing stock uncompetitive and significantly impact operations in an already tough global economic market. What is seen as the callous action of the Government in proceeding headstrong in the face of the overwhelming opposition from the Business sector and Public was also a catalyst for the resignation of Ministers of the ruling administration, Mr Kyle Hodge and Miss Dee-ann Kentish-Rogers.
In a clear and cogent letter to the Public and subsequent radio interview, Mr. Hodge set out what he felt were the rational bases that could not allow him to continue under the umbrella of the ruling Administration. In his words “GST is not a right fit for Anguilla and alternatives need to be explored”.
In the case of the Restaurant community, their concerns which had been detailed in correspondence dated 30th May to the Government of Anguilla remained unanswered in writing. They expressed that this is leading to significant uncertainty within the sector especially given the likely exorbitant costs to which they and their customers would be exposed. In further correspondence just on the 28th June, they have expressed their unwavering solidarity with the actions of the Retail community and the business sector.
The Anguillian Public have in the meantime flooded local community radio stations and social media with opposition to this Tax Bill and feel deeply that both the British Government and local Government are out of step with the circumstances of Anguillians who are currently feeling the brunt of the global economic inflation and who feel that they have not even recovered from the ravages of Hurricane Irma and the Covid-19 pandemic. The Public is defiant that both the Administering Power in the UK and the Government of Anguilla are turning a blind eye to their distress and concentrating solely on debt servicing notwithstanding alternatives that have been proposed to reduce government spending and debt servicing.
The voices of Anguillians in these various sectors followed a Petition of over 1500 Anguillians and a thread of correspondence by the Concerned Citizens of Anguilla which commenced since 2021 when the consideration for passage of the Bill into law picked up pace. In correspondence that started at the local level with the Governor of Anguilla, the concerns of the People of Anguilla ascended all the way up to the Secretary of State of the United Kingdom political administration in seeking repeal of the legislation. All of the utterances of the Anguillian public for repeal of the legislation or significant amendments to the Act have been ignored and this action of protest by the island-wide shut-down has now demonstrated that the Anguillian Public is likewise resolute in not being suppressed by this legislation.