By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE passing of a Freedom of Information Act and a Fiscal Responsibility Act were important in establishing trust in New Zealand residents over their government’s efforts to implement Value Added Tax (VAT) and other fiscal reform initiatives, New Zealand VAT experts said.
New Zealand operates one of the world’s most successful VAT regimes. Two of that country’s VAT experts, who are presently in the Bahamas, are in the process of advising the Bahamas government on its readiness for VAT.
The statements of John Shewan and Don Brash come as uncertainty continues to exist over when the Bahamas government will uphold its campaign promise to pass and enact a Freedom of Information Act.
Their statements also come as residents continue to call for the government to bring forth and enact the legislation in order to assure transparency over the government’s actions.
In 1982, five years before VAT was implemented in New Zealand, a FOIA was passed in the home country of the VAT experts currently advising the government on its VAT readiness. The proposed date for the introduction of the tax in the Bahamas is July 1.
Then, in 1994 the New Zealand government passed a Fiscal Responsibility Act to allow for “explicit fiscal reporting.” Over time such steps to ensure transparency helped to improve fiscal relations in the country and established greater trust in New Zealand residents for their government’s actions, the VAT experts said.
Over 90 countries in the world have some form of a FOIA, including Caribbean neighbours Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
A FOIA was debated and passed under the former FNM administration in 2012. However, it was later withdrawn by the PLP, with government officials promising to bring forth a stronger piece of legislation.
State Minister for Legal Affairs Damien Gomez suggested to The Nassau Guardian in January that the passing of a such an Act is not at the forefront of the Christie administration’s current agenda.
Regarding the purpose of the New Zealand VAT consultants being in the Bahamas, State Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis has said that the government wants them to give “the benefits of their experience,” and to “say here are things you need to be doing, here are some suggestions.”
The consultants are expected to leave the Bahamas this week.