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Oil tax to raise cash for St George’s

A new tax on oil imports will help protect and promote the world heritage site of St George's.

But oil importers yesterday reserved judgement on the one quarter of a cent per litre tax levy proposal until the details — including whether they can pass it on to consumers — are thrashed out with Government.

David Rose, CEO of RUBiS, said: “It's a levy on all fuel imports into Ferry Reach. We were given a heads-up it was coming and there is no date set for its implementation.

“And there will be further discussions between the oil companies on this. The oil importers and the Finance Ministers have to get together to discuss this.”

Mr Rose added: “We can't absorb any more costs in this financial climate. We as oil companies simply cannot pass on a tax. It's the Ministry of Finance which allows for any new tax being recouped.”

Mr Rose was speaking after the bill, designed to raise funds on oil importers, including BELCO, was tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday.

Mr Rose said: “It's nothing at all to the consumer — but to the oil companies and BELCO it has an impact.

“As far as the oil companies and BELCO are concerned it's an added cost — we're in the same position as any other company in Bermuda.

“There has been declining demand for five or six years in a row and operating costs don't go down.”

Mark Fields, country manager for ESSO, added: “I can't comment on it at this point time. I'll have to have my lawyers review it and see what it's all about.

“I just looked at it and I think we can pass it on, but that's just a cursory reading.”

A spokeswoman for BELCO said: “We're just trying to get some information on it at the moment — we're trying to get some clarity.

“We're looking into it to see what it means and we're reserving comment until we do.”

The cash raised will be used to create the “UNESCO World Heritage Fund”, which will be managed by the Corporation of St George's.

Finance Minister Bob Richards, who tabled the bill, said Government was still in the process of working out how much cash the move might raise.

He added his Ministry had been in contact with oil importers.

Mr Richards said: “We're still organising the particulars and exact arrangements haven't been finalised yet.

“We wanted to get the legislation through so we can get things going.”

But he added: “They are pretty strapped for cash in St George's, so I'm sure this will be welcome as far as they are concerned.”

St George's Mayor Garth Rothwell could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

But Shadow Finance Minister David Burt said: “We all know that the old town needs help and the PLP supports maintaining the historic jewel of the Town of St. George.

But we hope that the Government has thought this new tax hike through. It is likely that this new tax will be passed on to the consumer increasing the cost of living for hardworking families and small businesses at the worst possible time.”

Mr Burt added: “We have to consider the knock-on effects of this plan.

“Not only will consumers face higher prices on their BELCO bills and to refuel their vehicles; but companies who will also see their costs rise are likely to increase the price of their goods and services. This can lead to an increase the price for food and essential services.

“We have learned that the Chamber of Commerce wasn't consulted on the cruise ship gaming bill so we hope the same mistake hasn't been made with this new tax.

“Rubis and Esso have hopefully been consulted and have been asked to hold off passing this new tax on to the consumer. If not this planned new tax is the wrong way forward and we urge the OBA to reconsider.”

A ship is shown tied up at the oil docks in St George's in this file photo.

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Published September 24, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 24, 2013 at 9:31 am)

Oil tax to raise cash for St George’s

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