Pantophlet and Tuitt differ on “sin tax”

POSTED: 04/12/13 11:09 AM

St. Maarten – It did not appear to be a slip of the tongue when Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Romeo Pantophlet told Parliament’s Central Committee that he is opposed to additional taxes being placed on the alcohol and tobacco industry. The proposed sin tax is a measure implemented by Finance Minister Roland Tuitt to raise revenue for the government.

Pantophlet sides with MPs who feel the measure would hurt St. Maarten’s image as a duty free hub and damage the island’s competitive advantage. Yesterday, MP Jules James (UP) appeared flabbergasted and asked for clarification on whether he had heard the minister correctly. James wanted the record to reflect that Pantophlet and Tuitt, both of whom are part of the National Alliance could not meet consensus on the tenacious issue.

Minister Pantophlet said that over the last few months he has marketed the island as a destination with duty free status, particularly to the South American market. He indicated that he had made a Spanish commercial in which all of the benefits of a tourist shopping here instead of Miami or New York were outlined. The heart of the commercial emphasized that alcohol and tobacco products were duty free.

Later in the day Finance Minister Roland Tuitt reiterated that the sin tax is necessary to raise revenue. He said the all tax suggestions made by the government including levying fees on casinos were intended to gain more income without affecting “the small individual man.”
MPs contend that the big businesses will be severely affected if the tax was to be passed or a fee introduced. Tuitt has projected that some 26 million guilders could be collected if the tax is implemented.

MPs from both the governing coalition and the opposition have suggested that the government use more creativity in raise revenue such as attracting foreign direct investment instead of applying more taxes.

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