The Cable

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(Antigua Observer) Two government officials said that the decline in tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom is due to the devaluation of the British currency.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA), Colin C James viewed the plunge in the destination’s tourism arrivals from the UK following that country’s decision to withdraw from the European Union as critical, because “the destination depends heavily on tourism”.

“The collapse in the value of the pound made the Caribbean that just more expensive. What we have done is to mitigate with our tourism partners, hoteliers, and tour operators to offer packages which are discounted to compensate for the falling value of the pound,” James said.

Speaking at a recent Round Table discussion themed, “Brexit: Implications for Antigua & Barbuda and the Wider Caribbean” James said that the tourism authority noticed “a softening of demand from the UK”.

In providing some statistics, the CEO said that the tourist arrivals at the beginning of 2016 “started very strongly” and the cause for concern was that “we ended [2016] just about flat”.

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(Jamaica Observer) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released a new working paper on value added tax (VAT) and consumption taxes within the Caribbean region which asserts that competition for investments has led to diminishing returns from the tax category.

Tax Administration Reforms in the Caribbean: Challenges, Achievements, and Next Steps, by Stephane Schlotterbeck was released earlier this month.

Twenty Caribbean islands are discussed in the paper which analyses VAT performance in the region and concludes that while it has boosted revenues, the VAT has not reached its potential.

The author considers to be problematic the broad use of VAT exemptions, zero-rating, and VAT withholding to attract FDI and boost competitiveness.

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DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors has stopped doing business in Venezuela after authorities took control of its only factory there in what GM called an illegal judicial seizure of its assets.

The plant was confiscated on Wednesday as anti-government protesters clashed with authorities in a country that is roiling in economic troubles such as food shortages and triple-digit inflation.

The Detroit automaker said in a statement Thursday that other assets such as vehicles were taken from the plant, causing irreparable damage to the company.

It's not the first time the Venezuelan government has seized a foreign corporation's facilities. In July of last year, the government said it would take a factory belonging to Kimberly-Clark Corp. after the U.S. personal care giant said it was no longer possible to manufacture in the crisis-wracked nation due to a lack of materials.

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(Demerara Waves) Digicel’s Guyana operations on Thursday denied claims by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) that it has evaded taxes through what its competitor called an illegal bypass.

“Digicel notes with great disappointment GT&T’s most recent statements to the press in which it repeated untrue allegations and more specifically claimed that Digicel has denied the Government of Guyana payment of taxes. Digicel wishes to state categorically that it owes no taxes and is in good standing with the GRA (Guyana Revenue Authority),” the phone company said in a statement.

The Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes has since said she is not opposed to an audit of Digicel’s operations, but highlighted that GTT does not serve many areas and has not stuck to its contractual obligation of upgrading the landline service every 10 years.

Hughes said so far, GTT has not yielded to her calls to prove that it has the capacity to provide adequate data service.

For its part, Digicel said when it began providing services in Guyana in 2007, consumers saw up to 50% decrease in domestic call rates and access to new affordable handsets with no activation fees. Digicel added that 27 years after GT&T’s launch in Guyana, there are still areas even in Georgetown where customers are still waiting for service from GT&T.

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(V. I. Consortium) ST. CROIX — Governor Kenneth Mapp — flanked by Attorney General Claude Walker and Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Marvin Pickering — announced the creation of a task force to be helmed by Mr. Walker and Mr. Pickering, with the sole goal of collecting some $430 million that the government has determined is owed to it.

The announcement of the task force to collect owed taxes — made during a press conference at Government House here this morning — places on display the administration’s continuing challenge to maintain liquidity for the operations of government, while other sources of funding are either unavailable, or have yet to come into effect.

“I am here to report to the people of the Virgin Islands that within ten years prior to today’s date, the outstanding monies owed in income taxes, gross receipt taxes, hotel occupancy taxes to the people of the Virgin Islands is now at $324 million,” revealed the governor. “That means that we have approximately $430 million on the streets of the Virgin Islands that are owed to the people of the Virgin Islands.” The governor mentioned his prior announcements of potentially furloughing government employees and cutting short work weeks because of the lack of funds, in an apparent effort to remind residents that the government is still struggling to maintain operations. He also mentioned the inconsistencies in issuing tax refunds — again, pinning the uneven delivery of refunds on those who owe taxes, but have refused to make good on their obligations.

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