No thanks to the tax and fee increases that led to the higher cost of doing business on Guam, many of the island's small businesses are struggling, said Guam Chamber of Commerce President Catherine Castro Wednesday.
Castro and Chamber board Chairman Joe Arnett gave their end-of-the year speeches Wednesday at the annual Guam Chamber meeting and election of its 2020 board.
At 95 years old, the largest business organization on the island has been busy the past year advocating for government policies that stir economic growth and opposing tax and fee increases that hamper economic growth and slow the creation of jobs.
The Guam Chamber has lost 39 small business members this year.
"Almost all have told us that as small businesses, they have taken a big hit with the increase in Business Privilege Taxes implemented last year," Castro said. "Coupled with the rise in government fees to do business, cost of goods due to the (Truck Enforcement Screening Station) law and this year’s increase of real property tax for properties and improvements of $1 million and more - many of our small businesses are struggling: they are having to restructure, lay people off, cut benefits so they can keep their businesses afloat."
"Our big business members have had to tighten their belts as well - and make changes to how they do business to keep the doors open. We haven’t even talked about the new minimum wage increase and how this will impact doing business on our small island. Yet, our government continues to get bigger and fatter instead of leaner and more efficient," Castro added.
Castro challenged Guam Chamber members to join efforts to call for "authentic change, require fiscal responsibility, and bring real, factual information to our government officials and our people."
"We will continue to press our government officials to directly address issues and inefficiencies in order to conduct work competently and make Guam more attractive to investors and new industries," Castro added.
Chamber Chairman Arnett agreed with the major points in Castro's speech and added: "Elected officials continue their assault on the business community."
Another Guam election season is coming up – in November 2020 – he reminded the membership.