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  Yves Bourel has been living in St. Barts for more than 10 years. He is an experienced journalist and has been the editor-in-chief for local newspapers. Currently, he is one of the radio announcers at Radio St. Barth for whom he covers political news and is presenting the local news every 2 weeks for St. Barths Online!
  October 17, 2002 - Issue # 26
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   Local taxes are for everyone!
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   The post 9/11 tourism industry has learned one thing over the past year: whatever marketing efforts seemed adequate just yesterday no longer meet the standard. As a favorite Caribbean up-market travel destination, St. Barths still enjoys some immunity. Nevertheless, market-conscious hotel managers, owners, and restaurateurs here have recognized that resting on laurels is suicidal. The game has changed, and so must the promotional strategy that protects St. Barth's key economic interests in an international travel market. In a word, increase visibility, stay ahead of the competition and play to the house. A group of approximately 30 tourism professionals went to Manhattan during the second week of October to promote the island to Stateside journalists and travel agents in a series of promotional events intended to keep St. Barths high in the American travel industry's Caribbean pecking order. To the great credit of the municipality and the hotel association, the astute marketing gesture was well planned, well executed and well received. Whether or not the results are as promising as hoped, there is no question that in an iffy economy, the proactive measures can only help.
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  Aside from the tourism buzz, local news for the past fortnight has been firmly fixed on island-imposed taxes. The first involves a garbage collection tax (for homeowners, the yearly amount is approximately 75 euros per year) which was instituted in 1995. The tax, owed by local householders and businesses, is used to finance and operate waste treatment. Though the large majority of residents give little to write about, there is a costly minority (20%) that has shirked its civic duty since the tax was initiated. For the years of 1999 and 2000, unpaid garbage taxes amounted to 170,000 euros and 95,200 euros respectively. Recently, local government, tired of chasing after its due, hit zero-tolerance and decided to take a more decisive stance.
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  Michel Geoffrin, the deputy mayor in charge of environmental issues, when asked about the municipality's recent decision to call in the public treasurer said that double standards-those that pay and those that don't- would no longer be tolerated. Hundreds of letters went out to late payers informing them that they would be accorded an eight-day grace period for settling their accounts. After that, the letter warned, their bank accounts would be frozen until payment was made in full.
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  Municipal leaders have shown the same determination in their most recent attempts to collect fuel taxes from one of the island's largest corporate consumers, EDF. The publicly-held electricity company owes cumulative back-taxes of over 1 million euros dating from August 2001 , a sum that local government is demanding it pay immediately.
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  The fuel tax was created as part of the St Barths specific statutes ratified in the French overseas department's revised orientation law. In essence, the laws give local government greater autonomy in managing certain island affairs once governed by regional and departmental administrators.
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  While on the subject of St. Barth's statutory evolution, the mayor announced that a local referendum is being planned for the fall of 2003, enabling voters to say where they stand when it comes to detaching St. Barths out from under Guadeloupe's administrative wings.

  More to come,

  Yves Bourel


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