ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has described as reasonable and fair, a government decision to increase airport taxes and has brushed aside suggestions that the tax is harmful for the tourism industry.
The House of Representatives, last Wednesday, approved the Airport Administration Charge Act, 2012, which takes the country’s overall airport taxes to US $93.75 up from US $63.75.
The opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) blasted the tax as one that would cause obvious damage to the tourism industry. But Spencer told OBSERVER Media that he is not convinced there will be any long-term impact of the twin island’s main income earner.
“Even if it does initially, that is not going to be sustained over time. There might be an initial reaction but Antigua & Barbuda is a destination that sells itself,” Spencer said.
The prime minister said he wants to put the airport in a position where it can effectively pay for itself in the long term.
He said improvements being made to the airport terminal also come with a price.
“I am strongly of the view that if you have to expend those kinds of monies to modernise your airport, that industry should be able to pay for it.
“People would know that if they want a modern airport with all the amenities, then the money has to come from somewhere. We have taken the view to be reasonable and fair with this,” the Antigua & Barbuda leader said.
The charges would be built into tickets costs, simplifying the process and removing the need for departing passengers to pay at the airport after check-in.
The House also approved amendments to the Airport Authority Act of 2006, giving the authority autonomy from central government, including for subventions.
The changes allow the authority to collect funds and meet its financial obligations. It will be subject to the Finance Administration Act. The director of audit would also be able to inspect the authority’s finances.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)