OBA redoubles criticism of TA form
Revelations that the Government’s much criticised Travel Authorisation form is now a money-raising mechanism rather than an anti-Covid agent has intensified opposition demands for it to be scrapped.
The One Bermuda Alliance has insisted the $40 charge, which entails an intensive application process, must go as it is having a highly damaging impact on the crucial tourism industry.
The call comes after junior finance minister Arianna Hodgson said the payment, which is set to raise $22 million this year, could not be dropped because it was essential to fund government services.
Michael Dunkley, shadow national security minister, told The Royal Gazette: “The PLP Government's admission that the TA is required due to the money it generates is very concerning.
“Initially when the TA was implemented with a $75 fee, it was to protect our borders and the fee to cover the cost of testing. That was acceptable at the time due to the situation we faced.
“Now it is debatable that the TA is in fact protecting our borders as the majority of positive cases are from local community transmission and most of the people travelling are not having tests done through a government test site, so the fee is now simply another tax!
“The TA has served its purpose and now is the time to end or streamline it. No excuses.
“Sadly, it appears the Government, while receiving numerous complaints, is simply not listening.
“The failure to listen by the Government is having a serious negative impact on our island; not only for those who are travelling through the aggravation and inconvenience of the form.
“Too often, approvals are being delayed and causing travelling anxiety for both locals and visitors alike. The negative publicity will continue as long as the TA remains in its existing form.
“This is totally unacceptable and is a glaring lack of leadership by [David] Burt and the Cabinet.
“Sadly, the Government has admitted the tax will remain in place into 2023. This is a poor decision, to say the least.
“The TA as it stands now must be scrapped and we must enact a much simpler form such as what is required to enter the US with no fee.“
Ms Hodgson, who is also junior health minister, told the Senate getting rid of the TA payment would mean cutting services, raising taxes and borrowing money.
She said: “The TA system would definitely remain in place if the emergency powers were to end today. And I want to make it clear that the two do not rely on each other.
“I truly believe that the benefits outweigh the inconvenience. The alternatives ... to scrapping the TA would mean cutting services, raising taxes and borrowing more money.
“Unfortunately, we are not in a position to do those things. And so, yes, the TA will be around until March 31, 2023.”
Ms Hodgson also told the public they needed to do more to make the much criticised TA system work better.
She said: ”I think that the public can do their part in assisting the team by applying as early as possible.
“We are making the efforts and I think that the public can do their part.”