Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication (TEATT), the honourable Roger Lawrence, received the support of the Council of Ministers (COM) on Thursday last week for his initiative to reduce gasoline prices and alleviate some of the financial burdens presently being felt by residents at the pump.
Lawrence's “fuel price relief” proposal includes reducing Government's earnings on the fuel price build-up to reflect pre-COVID-19 amounts. Lawrence said, "Doing this will ensure the Government continues to earn fairly and at the same time bring some economic relief to the people of our Country. “The Ministry of TEATT continues to monitor the global and local fuel price changes and expects St. Maarten's gasoline price to rise to NAF 2.822 shortly.
Lawrence has collaborated with his colleagues, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Finance, to enact the necessary legislative changes. He said he was pleased with the support of his colleagues. "To implement the proposed fuel price relief, the Finance and Justice ministries would need to enact changes within our legislation to reduce the amount of money the Government collects in the revenue for gasoline through import duties."
Now that the proposal has received the support of the COM, the next step is to quickly submit a draft legislation for its approval.
Minister Lawrence said he "shares the concern of many citizens about the rising gas prices." He explained that his goal is to return the revenue amount collected by Government to the figures for 2019. He explained that based on a fixed percentage paid on fuel per liter, the actual dollar amount paid to Government naturally increases each time the fuel price increases. The Government receives Turn Over Tax (TOT) and Import Duty from the fuel price build-up, and today, that amounts to a combined NAF 0.539 cents per litre. The new proposal from the Ministry of TEATT will reduce the Government's duty revenue by approximately 14%. The aim is to keep these changes in effect until global fuel conditions become more favourable for the local market to experience relief.
To motivate the approach for fuel price reduction, Lawrence said, "The island's economy has not fully recovered and there is still evidence of the negative economic impact of COVID-19. COVID-19 also compounded an already slow to recover economy post-hurricane Irma and Maria of 2017." He admitted that the island is doing much better economically than it did a year ago but emphasized on the need to “continue to provide relief where possible for the average citizen."
On March 22nd, 2022, St. Maarten’s Government was forced to adjust the maximum fuel prices on petroleum products upward as developments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine resulted in global fuel prices rising to record high numbers. As the cost of fuel is expected to continue increasing, this counteractive measure from the Ministry of TEATT will mitigate the impact on the local economy and support residents.
PHOTO CUTLINE: L to R: Minister of Justice Hon. Ana Richardson, Minister of TEATT Hon. Roger Lawrence, and the Minister of Finance Hon. Ardwell Irion