Fuel tax to fund regeneration of St George
A tax on fuel landed at the St George's oil docks will raise funds necessary to protect the town's World Heritage site status, Government has claimed.
MPs voted in favour of the Corporation of St George (UNESCO World Heritage Fund and Levy) Act 2013 in the early hours of yesterday morning. The bill puts a one quarter of a cent per litre tax levy on petroleum imports.
Noting the “historical significance” of the town, Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley said that Bermuda had “long struggled to maintain its World heritage site to the standards set out in the criteria of the designation”.
He said that additional income raised from the tax will go straight to the Corporation's coffers to “maintain, develop and promote the World Heritage site”.
“This will provide much needed funding to revitalise St George's into a centre that Bermuda can be proud off,” Mr Dunkley said, adding that the town's potential as a major tourism attraction had not been exploited fully.
The Minister noted that damage inflicted to the town's wharf by Hurricane Fabian ten years ago had still not been repaired.
“It is acknowledged that any measure that results in even the slightest increase in cost creates an atmosphere of tension and impacts the consumer,” Mr Dunkley said.
“But this Government is not about to let the east end or anywhere else on the Island slide any further.”
Opposition MP Zane DeSilva said he support the bill in principle, but questioned the timing of the increase, claiming that “the man on the street was hurting”, while Independent MP Terry Lister asked what else the town could do to raise revenues.
And Glenn Blakeney raised concerns about the long-term impact of an increase, questioning whether fuel cost increases might eventually result in a rise in public transport fares.
But St George's North MP Kenneth Bascome insisted that the PLP had “dropped the ball” by allowing the “jewel of a town” to fall into decline, and said that the funding would have long-term benefits.
“It is going to help the Corporation of St George's to increase their work crews and improve infrastructure,” he said.
And Finance Minister Bob Richards concluded that the increase was “negligible”.
“It's important to put this in perspective — it is a 0.047 percent increase — less than half of one tenth of one percent,” he said.
“It's negligible, it really is. And in terms of jobs, at the very least this measure will save jobs in St George's.”