Sunday 12 July, 2020

Fedee: SLP Tourism Levy Bill criticism is political scare tactics

Minister of Tourism Hon  Dominic Fedee

Minister of Tourism Hon Dominic Fedee

Update: The criticism from Ernest Hilaire below was directed at the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (Amendment) Act, not the Tourism Levy Bill.

Minister of Tourism Hon Dominic Fedee addressed the nation tonight, June 3, 2020, on the Tourism Levy Bill.

In his statement, Fedee said that it was disingenuous, reckless and irresponsible for anyone to take a small sentence in the bill and misrepresent its meaning by highlighting that section only. He said that the criticism was typical of the opposition in attempting to scare the people instead of reasoning fairly.

Fedee said that the bill did not target Airbnbs but the accommodation sector as a whole.

He said that like in many other Caribbean countries the bill targets the guests that are staying in hotels and the funds collected would be used to market the nation as a destination, freeing up space in the budget for other pressing concerns.

Fedee noted that along with this bill, Village Tourism Incorporated will be established through which Airbnb operators can access concessions for the first time.

Earlier today, First Deputy Political Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Dr Ernest Hilaire posted a critical statement on the bill to his Facebook page saying:

"This Government must be mad! At 1 am, a Bill is put through all its stages and becomes law. Yes, law. Whilst Saint Lucians are asleep. Despite protestations from the SLP Parliamentarians, we now have a new law that is highly oppressive, unjust and unfair. Now let us get it clear, I support establishing standards for the hospitality sector but surely we must be reasonable and care for ordinary people trying to make a living.

Why should we pass such a law? I want you to read Section 27A and the definitions.

The definition of Accommodation Service is so wide and taken literally, section 27A would mean that you can’t offer anyone to rent from you without registering under the Act. Let me give an example. You have an empty apartment downstairs your house and have some friends in Trinidad who usually visit for Jazz and Carnival. You offer that they can stay by you at a reasonable price. They spend a few days. You are not registered. You can be arrested and charged up to $100,000 and/or 4 years in jail. Another example. You have that house for rent and someone wants to rent for one month. Then another person rents for two months. Then another for one month. If you are not registered, you can be arrested and charged up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to 4 years in jail.

$100,000 and/or. 4 years in prison for failing to register your room or apartment that you make available as a sleeping accommodation. Is it really necessary to criminalize such failure?"

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