COVID slashes Shefa Province revenue

The Shefa Provincial Government Council says it lost 18 million vatu in revenue collection for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Secretary General for Shefa Province, Morris Kaloran, says the loss is linked to a Council of Ministers’ decision to suspend businesses having to renew their 2020 business licenses.

Mr Kaloran says the decision has had a big impact on the operation of the Shefa Provincial Government.

“The order from the Council of Ministers has really affected the revenue base for the Shefa Provincial Government Council and has made it difficult for the council to deliver its services to its people,” Mr Kaloran said.

He says the lack of revenue for business licence renewals has affected his council’s rubbish collection services with the council having no money to collect rubbish or maintain roads.

Mr Kaloran says with last year’s revenue shortfall, the council is under pressure to find other revenue to help it serve its clients.

“We must continue to meet the costs of the operation of the council’s administration,” he said.

“We must also be careful because at any time someone could take legal action against us because we are not currently fulfilling our civic responsibilities.”

Mr Kaloran says because of the problems created by the shortfall, the Shefa Provincial Government is asking businesses in Shefa to renew their business licenses this year.

“This year, Shefa Province will not suspend any payments of business licenses,” he said.

The council’s secretary general says this decision is official and even businesses who paid for licences last year will need to pay this year.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Management says the suspension of road tax and business license payments was endorsed by the Council of Ministers to reduce COVID-19’s impact on local businesses.

But, Mr Kaloran says Vanuatu’s national Government should keep in mind when they make decisions that local authorities need revenue to sustain their operations.

The Shefa Provincial Government and other provinces are to receive a grant of 33 million vatu each annually to make up the revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 measures.

However, the secretary general says that grant will not be enough to for councils to continue supporting their populations during this pandemic.

Shefa has a population of around 50,000 people and Mr Kaloran says 48,000 of them reside on Efate but are from other provinces; and 26,000 are from Shefa itself.

Mr Kaloran says his request for the national Government to increase the annual grant has not been successful.

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