Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet is calling on government not to play the blame game where the cost of the e-passport is concerned.
Chastanet said that although his administration indeed set the $250 price tag on the passport before being voted out of office last year, it does not mean that the present government cannot change what it inherited.
“The Labour Party can’t pick and choose what it wants to have; any new government that comes in can change anything. They could have changed those things whenever they wanted. When we came into government we changed the VAT rate, we reduced the taxes on drivers licenses and vehicle registration. Those are within the realm of any government to do so (therefore), that’s farcical, that’s just passing the buck without trying to justify,” Chastanet said.
“Whether they did it deliberately or whether in fact they had not paid attention to it and all of a sudden got caught with their pants down, that’s for them to make that determination, but to suggest that anybody else influenced them is erroneous,” Chastanet added.
Home Affairs Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte, this week, spoke on the imminent arrival of the e-passport, after the price was heavily criticized on social media. Government was also bashed for the price tag attached to the travel document.
Whilst many have complained about the $250 price tag, which is almost three times the amount of the machine-readable passport, Albert-Poyotte told reporters the new fee was prepared by the previous government.
“Cabinet has taken a decision that we’ll go ahead with the e-passport with the fees that were quoted. The decision was taken on the 18th of January 2021, and we were not in office yet. The price given for the passport is basically to recover cost for production and that will not even cover the full cost for the passport. Government still has to subsidize in order to meet the costs involved in getting the e-passport,” Albert-Poyotte said.
According to her, the e-passport, (branded as “the next generation of travel documents”) must be implemented. The minister noted that the machine-readable passports which are currently being used in Saint Lucia are almost obsolete.
“The e-passport is very critical because our passport basically now is almost outdated, and the regional and international security persons are saying that they may not even want to accept the present passports that we have. We had no choice but to move ahead and get our new passports updated and get Saint Lucians to be (on par) with what is happening regionally and internationally…it is one that we may not want to debate (but) it’s a reality that is on our (doorstep) and we have to face it ,” Albert-Poyotte said.