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Duty petition presented to Premier

A petition signed by more than 3,000 people rejecting a potential duty hike has been presented to Premier Paula Cox.

The petition, filled with signatures collected between January 23 and February 10, calls for the Premier to leave the duty on personal imports untouched in the coming annual budget.

The cover letter of the petition reads: “With over 3,400 individuals signing this petition, we the people of Bermuda urge the Government to hear our voices and not to increase duty on personal imports.

“Duty increases will hurt Bermudians and residents, remove our right for free choice, injure businesses, lower business volume and activity and lead to layoffs and business closures. It will lessen competition and lead to increased prices in Bermuda and consequently increased inflation.”

Also included in the petition are a number of comments from signers expressing their concerns about a possible increase. Many said an increase would be punitive, citing a limited selection on the Island forces residents to look overseas.

In the comments section, Peter Sanderson of Smith’s wrote: “If I have to spend more money importing items that I cannot find in Bermuda, then that is less money I have to spend on other items and services within Bermuda.

“This will destroy goodwill for the Buy Bermuda Campaign.”

Sara Kerr of Southampton wrote: “Does Government really believe that this protectionist measure will increase the level of retail spending in Bermuda? It is more likely to have the opposite effect.”

And Orlando Smith of Hamilton wrote: “People should not be penalised just because they want to get something they like or for trying to save money, particularly in the present economic climate.

“There are better ways to help retailers if that is the goal. If the objective is to raise revenue, then Government should present a comprehensive plan and an explanation to the public so people can voice their opinions and buy into the plan.”

The petition comes months after the Premier announced that Government would increase the duty on personal items being carried into the country through the airport by travellers from 25 percent to 35 percent. In a press conference, she announced the increase as one of several moves intended to support the local retail sector by encouraging residents to shop locally.

The move was embraced by retailers, but criticised by Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards, who argued that it was a declining number of guest workers that was doing the most damage to the sector.

The Premier later said that the Government was considering “harmonising” duty rates, sparking public concern that the duty rate for items shipped into the Island would also rise.

Questioned on the comment in a pre-budget town hall meeting in January, Premier Cox said that harmonising didn’t necessarily mean increasing rates, saying: “It could mean rolling back on duty and increasing rates in other areas.”

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Published February 15, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 15, 2012 at 6:20 am)

Duty petition presented to Premier

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