Caribbean News Now reports that the government of Antigua and Barbuda plans to end what Prime Minister Gaston Browne describes as the ‘usurious tax exemption status’ of two of the country’s main telecoms providers Digicel and Flow, with the PM telling parliament: ‘We call on Digicel and Flow to pay their taxes, and if they don’t want to pay they can leave, and I am absolutely serious.’
Speaking to MPs on 23 July, PM Browne – who also serves as the country’s minister of finance – put the two telcos on notice that his government will withdraw from its tax concession agreements signed during the previous United Progressive Party (UPP) led administration. Browne said that the UPP agreement means that in the last four years, his Labour Party government has not been able to collect any taxes from them and that the ‘usurious arrangements must come to an end’. Though Browne envisions a legal battle, he insisted that the pair must start paying their share of taxes, and requested Robin Yearwood, the minister of public utilities, civil aviation and transportation, to convene with the two telecommunication corporations ‘to let them know we [are] not honouring those agreements. Bring them to an end … we all know they were usurious’. Browne clarified that his government would not seek retroactive tax payments from Digicel and Flow, but they must pay taxes and ‘if they want to go court, let them go to court’.