PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MPs) will discuss the basic points of government’s stimulus package to alleviate the burden caused by the effects of COVID-19 in the country. This will take place in a closed-door Parliament Central Committee meeting with Finance Minister Ardwell Irion today, Monday, March 30.
The session is set to start at 2:00pm. The public will get a chance to hear about the stimulus package during a Parliament public meeting on Wednesday, April 1, at 2:00pm. Irion will be present at that meeting.
Payroll, income and food support to the community are among the emergency measures proposed in the draft stimulus plan, a copy of which this newspaper has. The proposed measures in the plan include a monthly payroll supplement of between NAf. 750 and NAf. 1,350 for employees at risk of being laid off and a monthly income supplement of between NAf. 750 and NAf. 1,350 for active plate-holding bus drivers, taxi drivers, independent tour operators and licensed market vendors.
In the area of food support it is recommended that monthly food vouchers of NAf. 450 are given to qualifying persons in the categories above. An update of the maximum price list – which should include canned foods, rice, vegetables, baking products, baby products, sanitary products, personal hygiene products and water et cetera – coupled with increased enforcements is suggested for implementation.
In terms of general relief measures, the proposal suggests a GEBE utility bill fuel clause reduction for six months and no disconnections for this period. GEBE has already announced this reduction. A decrease in fuel prices as of March 31 is another proposal in the plan.
Telecommunication providers relaxing payment deadlines, disconnection dates and increasing data plans is another proposal as well as deferred car lease payments from car dealerships; a moratorium on loans for three to six months from banks with no capital payments or interest and a deferral on the payments of government student loans for three months.
Other proposals include special working capital to corporate clients by several banks (case by case basis); the postponement of 2019 Income Tax Return filing to August 31, 2020, the postponement of Provisional Profit Tax Return filing and payment until June 30, an extension on Final Profit Tax Return filing and extended payment arrangements for businesses experiencing cash flow problems. The latter is proposed to be handled on an individual basis and evidence of hardship will be required.
The suspension of audits (includes personal audits) and business liquidity support loans and increased support to rent committees as well as encouraging landlords to not evict tenants and possible suspension of payments or reduced payments (considering relief provided by the banks) are other proposals in the plan.
According to the plan, the necessary measures of closing the borders to control the spread of the virus have resulted in a practical halt of all economic activities on the island. The foremost affected are all economic activities directly related to tourism, the front line or first tier.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/mps-discuss-stimulus-package-in-closed-door-session-today