Today, April 3rd 2020, I spoke at a Press Conference that was intended to be a follow up from the Press Conference held last week at the same venue. During that last press conference, I promised to outline Government’s package of economic support for those affected financially; economically; and socially as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As you would expect, Government must make its decisions through a formal process that takes into account both the remedies and the consequences.
I must again state the obvious that this crisis is unprecedented as catastrophes go. We are all in this together and so there will be cases where we may have to make sacrifices for others.
What we are hoping to achieve is:
- To help those most affected and least able to respond – low paid workers who have lost their jobs; and
- To ensure businesses can receive some modicum of support to avoid the destruction of the economy. In this regard it must be kept in mind that Government is a business as well.
To Accomplish this we are taking a number of key steps.
- The implementation of a temporary unemployment benefit for qualified persons whose jobs were impacted by the pandemic.
- A list of sanitary goods and equipment as well as food items that will attract duty free concessions for a period of three months;
- A maximum price list to be placed in all retail outlets to prohibit and penalize price gouging under the Distribution and Price of Goods Act.
There are a number of other initiatives for stimulating the economy that have not yet been formally approved, but that I am confident I have the support of my Ministers in moving forward shortly.
- Provide an employment benefit for persons who do not qualify under the ASSB Temporary Unemployment Benefit program. To be administered through the Labour Office and the Social Welfare Department — subject to socio-economic needs assessment and the requirement that such persons must register as self-employed under the ASSB to qualify for any such assistance. The compensation benefit will be less than ASSB Plan.
- Waiving all interests and penalties on fees and taxes for three months. This does not include arrears.
- Increase the discount on property tax from 5% to 10% and intend this discount from June 2020 to October 2020.
- Put in place a facility for H. M. Customs to grant duty deferrals up to six weeks to qualified traders, to allow the stockpiling of needed food and sanitary items to preempt the possibility of the reduction or closing of cargo transport services in the main distributing centers in North America.
- Companies that continue to pay workers that are “sheltered in place” or required to stay at home will be considered for waiver of Social Security and ISL payments for three months or any lesser period that they are so treated.
- A fund will be established through the Anguilla Development Board to grant small low interest loans to assist businesses in getting back on track. One of the qualifying criteria will be their tax record as an operating business, which is available at Inland Revenue Department. Such business will include farmers and fishermen.
- The Government to continue working with the Water Corporation and ANGLEC to ensure that consideration be given to customers who are unable meet their bills because of loss of jobs or business opportunities.
In addition to these measures to be provided or considered by Government and Public Sector Agencies, a number of private sector partners including the Banks; Hotels; Communication Services (Flow & Digicel) are implementing programs to ease the impact of COVID-19 on their customers as well as the overall economy. A number of them have been exceedingly generous.
I must also welcome the support from the FCO/UKG and other regional agencies like OECS & ECCB. I want all Anguillians to bear in mind that we are reaching out to the FCO for assistance.
This support comes from British taxpayers. British taxpayers are now facing the same challenges that we are facing as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.
If we expect them to make sacrifices — we must be prepared to make sacrifices too. I have every confidence that the UKG will continue to be supportive of Anguilla — we have been very dutiful in our obligations as a territory over the years.
We have also established a great partnership that is the envy of many other territories.
Let us be proud in our conduct as we face these challenges together.
I will continue to provide updates and information as the situation unfolds.