By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- “This budget (is) designed to win big, big for our people in 2014,” was not a statement made on the political platform – it was in fact St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, in his capacity as finance minister, presenting to parliament the 2014 Budget on Tuesday.
But the 'Win Big' statement, which has been prominent in the election campaign of the governing Labour Party, will no doubt be interpreted by some to describe the newly presented fiscal package as an election budget.
And it contains enough sweeteners to support that view. Public servants, who received a bonus back in September, have now been told to expect a 10 percent increase over a three-year period.
“Mr Speaker, we are also committed to providing an upgrade in the pay package for civil servants. In addition to restoring increments we will increase wages and salaries by 10 percent,” Douglas told parliament.
According to the prime minister, they’ll be paid a four percent increase in January, three percent in 2015 and another three percent in 2016.
The prime minister told parliament that a wage freeze that had been imposed under the country’s programme with the International Monetary Fund would be lifted in January. And a second VAT reduction day that had been scheduled for December 19 will now be on the 20th, moved from Thursday to Friday to allow more people to benefit from the reduction, in keeping with appeals from the private sector and the political opposition.
The government also reversed an earlier decision that will now see the sale of vehicles included in the VAT reduction. Douglas called on businesses expected to benefit from increases in sale on December 20 to “sweeten the deal” for their customers by offering additional discounts.
The nation was also informed that there would be no major changes in relation to taxes. Douglas presented what he labeled a tax free budget, one aimed at promoting sustained economic growth. The more than three-hour presentation also spoke to developments in the housing sector, and additional airline flights coming in 2014.
Elected opposition parliamentarians stayed away from the House in keeping with their ongoing boycott.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network