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St Vincent Government defends tax concessions to Jamaican company

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — The St Vincent and the Grenadines Government has defended the decision to grant a 15-year tax break and other concessions to a Jamaica-based firm, Rainforest Seafoods SVG Ltd, that has promised to invest EC$10 million (EC$1 = US$0.37 cents) in a fish-processing facility here.

“I just want to say that almost all the concessions given to Rainforest Seafoods are concessions given to manufacturers in this country and to hoteliers, people who invest,” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said.

“Well, if you bring that in a hotel, you get a similar length of concession, you also get for hoteliers and manufacturers. And these people, we must remember, are a packaging entity — cleaning and packaging. In other words, they are taking the raw materials and putting it together in a way for the market; and they're bringing with them expertise and they are bringing with them also markets,” he told radio listeners.

Gonsalves said there were people commenting on the initiative because his Administration had not approved their application to operate the existing fisheries facility at Calliaqua, south of here, which is being administered by a fisheries cooperative.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said that Rainforest Seafoods has similar businesses in other parts of the region, adding “a manufacturing entity is coming in, they get the raw materials for the building duty free. The same thing with an hotelier”.

A November 14, 2018 Cabinet memo obtained by Caribbean Media Corporation shows that the Government has agreed that no taxes or withholding of any kind whatsoever will be levied on Rainforest Seafoods' income, profits and capital gains for 15 years, which begins when the company informs the Government in writing of the commencement of its commercial operation.

The memo notes that no customs duties, value added taxes or duties will be imposed on any building, materials and finishing, fixtures, fittings, plant, machinery, equipment, tools, spare parts, and construction equipment imported during the construction phase of the project.

The company will receive duty-free concessions on the importation of two freezer trucks, three pickups, two freezer forks, two outside forks, three electrical pallet jacks, two reefer containers for transporting products to the airport, and boat engines for two boats mentioned.

Rainforest Seafoods will also receive duty-free concessions on the importation of one tractor head, two chassis, and two boats to be used for transporting product and fishermen's supplies between the islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines only.

Gonsalves said that Rainforest Seafoods, by virtue of the agreement, are not allowed to fish in St Vincent and the Grenadines, adding that the boats on which the company is getting the concessions are to transport seafood from one part of the country to the next.

“They have to buy from the fisher folk. We have a lot of lobster and fish and we have to be careful with the conch,” he said.

“The question for the refrigerated transport — when they have the live lobsters — they need something to take it from there to the airport,” Gonsalves said, adding that the concessions are given on all special service vehicles used in the manufacturing sector.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said he is aware that a small group had been interested in getting the Calliaqua Fisheries Cooperative facility but, for various reasons did not get it.

“And some of the local people, I know, are angry because Rainforest are coming there now to build. Well, they could have come and build…But people must stop using their personal or group agendas and look at the issue of national development for the country. And I could answer and defend anything the Government does,” the prime minister said.

He said if the Government makes a mistake, “I would say I think our judgement was not as good as it should be on this or that issue…

“But I want the young men and young women who are listening to me to get into fisheries. It's a big area. Just like how I encourage the young men and women to get involved in fruits and vegetables in a scientific way, and also to get into animal husbandry.”

He said that last year animal husbandry contributed $19.5 million to St Vincent and the Grenadines' GDP, which was “more than the fish landings”.

“But, of course, fisherfolks will sell fish at sea…So what we caught is not necessarily what we land… But you will have a reason now to bring it here and sell it and get a good dollar for it,” Gonsalves added.