Now that the initial well-wishes for the success of the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat leadership are starting to wane in the United Kingdom and around the globe, questions about the coalition government’s future policies will start to come into focus. Specifically, many wonder what will it mean for the Caribbean that a nation with such a high level of influence in the region has gone through such a radical change at the top. There has not been a British coalition government in 70 years. Early feedback seems to be positive, with an almost immediate announcement from #10 Downing Street that plans are being laid to replace the burdensome Air Passenger Duty (ADP) with a per-plane tax. The ADP, imposed during former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s tenure, mandated a specific levy on all air passengers, depending on the distance between London and their travel destination. Under the ADP regime, the Caribbean was placed in ‘Band C,’ made up of locales 4,001 – 6,000 miles away from the British capital. This measurement translated to an EC$198 duty in November 2009, a rise of up to 112 percent The tax was also due to increase this year. Caribbean tourism officials were extremely unhappy with the tax, positing that it was costing their respective countries potential visitors By adding to required travel costs per passenger. On an annual basis, approximately 1.5 million U.K. tourists travel to the region. The new duty being discussed will be on a per-plane basis, rather than per-person. The ‘eco-friendly’ policy change is aimed at reducing the number of half-empty planes flying, and will mean that full flights will be taxed proportionately less than more sparsely populated ones. The bottom line is that costs would shift from passengers to the airlines, a development that was naturally not received well By the latter, including British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic, both of which service the Caribbean. A BA representative recently questioned just how much of a positive environmental impact the change in tax would have, in addition to calling the plans “unworkable” and a measure that could “disadvantage” the British tourism industry. Comments made By Caribbean Tourism Organisation Secretary General Hugh Riley in response to the announcement that the ADP would be scrapped, indicated his belief that persistent lob Bying By his organization and others in the region had an impact in bringing about the proposed travel levy change. While many in the travel industry are encouraged at this point, they all have their fingers crossed until the details of the new tax plan are revealed. Right now, things look positive, but it is oftentimes hard to tell how new policies will actually pan out. Still, it is somewhat surprising to see such an immediate policy change that has the potential to be favorable to the Caribbean. Time will tell if the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition will prove to be a better partner than the Blair/Brown Labour government. Needless to say, Britain has had a long, and sometimes checkered; history in the region and it should be noted that current relations between London and Overseas Territories such as Anguilla have been far from smooth.
- 9 years ago
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