Monday 6 July, 2020

Pressure mounting on regional leaders to lower airfares

So far 19,322 people have signaled their displeasure with the cost of intra regional travel and they want CARICOM governments to address the issue.

An online petition which was launched in April by an organization called the Caribbean Citizens Against High Intra-Regional Travel Taxes, is geared toward forcing regional governments to consider alternatives to the current taxes, fees and charges (TFCs) structure.

Pressure will be mounting on heads of government to pay attention to the pleas of Caribbean citizens when the petition secures its target of 20,000 signatures. At that time, it will be presented to the CARICOM Secretariat and the office of each country's Prime Minister, in hopes that “they realise that the current intra-regional travel tax regime is negatively impacting movement within the region.” 

There has been doubt expressed about the likelihood of intra-regional travel cost being lowered. Back in May, Lionel Hurst, who is the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, told the Daily Observer he is not convinced a reduction in fees is achievable.

The senior government official said discussions had taken place at Cabinet, however, he noted a reduction in taxes “is a wish rather than a directive which governments would seriously consider”. 

The organization said a stance such as this is simply “unacceptable”.

“We acknowledge that governments are not keen to reduce travel taxes and fees in order to make intra-regional travel cheaper, but we will not accept the notion that effecting such a change is impossible.

It is incumbent upon us as the constituents of the region to communicate and demonstrate to our leaders that the current state of affairs is unacceptable. Through actions like this petition, we are signaling to them that there are alternatives to the current tax regime. We are using the range of studies and publications available on the subject to present these alternatives and to demonstrate that the people of the region are dissatisfied with the status quo.”

The organization also emphasized the role of the media in pushing the agenda of the petition to “shine a spotlight on the issue and to pile pressure on [regional] leaders to act”.

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