Leader of the Opposition Stephenson King, out of concern for the deteriorating health of the nation, has written to Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, concerning the long-standing issue of Value Added Tax (VAT) on medication.
In a letter dated April 12, 2013, King brought to the attention of the prime minister the number of citizens who complain on an almost weekly basis, about their inability to purchase their medication in a timely manner due to the additional burden brought on by the tax.
King further stated that Saint Lucians are experiencing a period of “double-suffering” by first experiencing the pain of their various ailments and then second, experiencing the difficulty and stress that comes with being unable to meet the exorbitant costs of their medicines.
The leader of the opposition, in his letter, called on Dr. Kenny Anthony, in his capacity as prime minister and minister for finance, to consider the plight of the people of Saint Lucia and remove the Value Added Tax on medication in the new financial year. King assured Dr. Anthony that any proposal to repeal the VAT on medication in the upcoming budget presentation will receive the full support of the opposition.
King believes that the general public now realizes that medication has gotten more expensive, not because of a situation of new stock versus old stock, but is due rather to the fact that the Value Added Tax was a replacement to the ‘Consumption Tax’, which ranged from 0 to 10 percent prior to the 15 percent VAT implementation.
In addition ‘import duties’ on medication also increased by five percent, and in some cases as much as 10 percent due to the implementation of the Harmonized System (2007) preceding the VAT implementation of October 1, 2012.
To put it simply: citizens are unfortunately experiencing an increase in the cost of their medication because of a combination of these two factors:
(i) The taxes that VAT was set to replace were actually lower than the VAT itself, in some instances as much as five percent lower. And
(ii) The increase in the import duties on medication just prior to the implementation of VAT, naturally resulted in an increase.
“The prime minister, if fully aware of these facts, must give consideration to the cries of the people. Dr. Anthony must show the nation that his administration is a government that cares, a government that wants a healthy workforce in order to remain attractive in the eyes of investors, a government that is looking out for the ‘Malay-way’,” King said.