The government lost at least $19 million in revenue last year due to various cuts on import duties. Some of those cuts have since expired. (Photo: PROVIDED)

Government lost out on more than $19 million in revenue last year as a result of temporary import duty cuts designed to promote green energy and to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, a customs official told legislators during the Standing Finance Committee deliberations held on Dec. 1-7.

Then-acting Customs Commissioner Leslie Lettsome said the first set of cuts — which lifted the duty on renewable energy products for a two-year period starting in July 2021 — cost the Customs Department $7,884,349 from January 2022 to December, according to a report on the closed-door SFC proceedings. Those cuts are due to expire on June 30, when the customs duty for all renewable energy imports will rise to 10 percent — half the 20 percent importers said they typically paid for such products before the exemption took effect.

General cuts

The second set of cuts — which reduced duties on food, gas and other products from April 15 to October 15 — cost the department $11,243,114, Mr. Lettsome said.

These cuts, which slashed duty on all goods above five percent down to five percent, were designed to help the public weather Covid-19, inflation and cost increases caused in part by the Ukraine war, officials said.

The programme was imposed April 15 for three months, and then it was extended three more months on July 15. Over the same period, government also reduced import duty from 22 cents to 11 cents on diesel; from 32 cents to 16 cents on gasoline; from 18 cents to 9 cents per 100 pounds of cement; and from $1.20 to 60 cents for 100 pounds of propane.

During a House of Assembly sitting last August — when legislators retroactively agreed to extend the original three-month cuts through Oct. 15 — Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said the community has “had a hard time with the hurricanes and the pandemic and with inflation.”

“This initiative would’ve assisted our business community,” he added.


During the SFC meeting in December, Mr. Lettsome also raised concerns about limited staff at his department.

His agency, he said, was requesting funding to hire an additional 40 staff over the next four to five years. He noted that the department acquired six trainees last year.

Mr. Lettsome said that an additional 40 staff would fulfil the requirement of 135 officers needed to cover 10 ports of entry.