The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has called on Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) administration to lower the tax on petroleum and petroleum products in keeping with the price range in other countries within the region.
NDC Political Leader Nazim Burke issued the call last week Monday during the weekly press briefing held at NDC Headquarters in St. George’s.
He expressed concern over the 90 cents increase in the price of gasoline from $12.30 to $13.20, which became effective on April 18.
“The continuing rise in the gas prices is an issue that continues to impact upon the population in a very real and substantial way”, Burke said, pointing to what he described as the “widening between the price of gas at the pumps in Grenada and the other countries within the last month”.
“The price of a gallon of gas was $12.30 as of March 18, today a gallon of gas sells for $13.20 and that compares with a price of $10.30 in St. Vincent, $12.50 in Antigua, $10.22 in St. Kitts, $9.92 in St Lucia, $9.32 in Dominica”, he said.
“This means that on average Grenada’s gas price is $2.73 more than the average price anywhere in the (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) sub-region”, Grenada’s price is 25 percent higher than in the other territories”, he told reporters.
He went on: “To put it in another form the quantity of gas that Grenadians are paying $100 for today, Dominica and the other countries are paying $75 for that same quantity of gas when they go to the pumps – this is how bad the situation is”.
Burke charged that the situation is “particularly worrying and troublesome” because Grenada purchases petroleum from neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.
He pointed out that the petrol is transported from Trinidad by ship up the islands and that Grenada is the closest of the islands to the twin island republic.
“And so in terms of transportation cost, it’s low for Grenada than any of the other islands…we are right here but we are paying the most for it”, he said.
Burke recalled that 18 months ago a barrel of oil sold for US$143.00 on the world market at that time gas prices in Grenada was $16.00 a gallon.
“Today, the price of a barrel of oil is just about US$40.00 and when you look at the price it has only changed from $16.00 to $13.20. So the situation is really not justified”, he said.
Burke who is also a Senator in the country’s parliament advanced that the hike in gas price is happening because the “government continues to impose a very burdensome tax situation on the population”.
Since its return to office, the Mitchell-led regime has introduced a number of taxes and austerity measures in order to arrest a severe fiscal situation facing the island.
PM Mitchell has promised that a 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) initiated with the “blessings” of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now into its final year.
Burke noted that “in every other country in the OECS, the petroleum tax is $3 per gallon (but) here it is $5.50 per gallon.
He claimed that in effect the “government is gouging the citizens” of the country.
“They (in government) are making up to EC$41.5 million per year from gasoline sales in the country and boasting that they are collecting more monies now than ever. In fact one of the ministers was on the television not too long ago saying that in the month of March, they realised more revenues than they have ever realized”, he said.
“So at a time when the government says it is collecting more monies now than ever it is still continuing to gouge the citizens”, he added.
Burke contended that the situation is “affecting all commuters that use the buses to come to work on a daily basis, the owners of vehicles travelling to and from work, church and other businesses….”.
He said that “businesses are also feeling the pressure” and that “the cost of fuel impacts on the cost of production”.
“…This situation is having a negative impact on economic activity in the country and this is the point that we continue to make, that the burden of taxes that the government (has introduced) is too high, that it is actually having the opposite effect – suffocating the economy”, he said.
The Congress leader reiterated the call for the NNP regime “to lower the petroleum tax so that we can benefit as the rest of the world is benefiting”.
Both NNP and Congress are believed to be preparing their election machinery for the next national poll expected within the next 12 months.