September 1, 2017

Over $890,000 collected from phone tax for ZHTF – Camillo Gonsalves

The two per cent levy on mobile telephone calls and international calls that is paid directly to the Zero Hunger Trust Fund (ZHTF) has so far generated $890,492.25.

Minister of Economic Planning Camillo Gonsalves made the disclosure in Parliament on Tuesday, while answering a question posed by Opposition Senator Marcia Barnwell.

Of that amount, $489,857.69 was collected in 2016 and so far for 2017, $400,634.66 has been collected.

Gonsalves noted that the fund will collect far less than the $2.7 million originally estimated by the Prime Minister in his 2016 Budget address.

“This is primarily due to the fact that the projection was based on the consideration of the past charges and did not take into account the rapidly changing economics of the telecommunications sector.”

The Minister further stated that two years ago, more people were using their telephones and more people were sending text messages, but now, consumers wait until they are in a WiFi hotspot and use Whatsapp, Facetime and Viber.

“The providers are not getting money from those services, so we are not getting the two per cent on those services. When we look back on past mistakes, past earnings, we overestimated what the two per cent levy would get. We underestimated the rapidity of the change in the way that people access telecommunications and communicate with one another.”

Gonsalves, however, stated that the levy has not been the sole source of income for the ZHTF. He said individuals and businesses have contributed in excess of $40,000 to the fund.

“The Honourable Prime Minister, last year gave one month of his salary to the ZHTF and this year, he has already given one month of his salary … and he has committed to do that for the five years that the ZHTF is intended to be in operation.”

The Minister also recognized and congratulated Consul General of SVG to Toronto Fitzgerald Huggins (one donation), Derron Grant, a Vincentian living in Oman (two donations), the One St Vincent Group (a recurring donation) and St Vincent Container Corporation for their donations to the fund.

He said contributions have also come from the Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan, DubaiCares and the Ambassador of the State of Palestine.

Some of the headline programmes of the ZHTF to date are the Adopt a Classroom Programme, the rapid training and skills development programme and the assistance to the elderly programme.(JWC)