DNA leader Branville McCartney continued his push for the government to rethink the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT), calling it an “unfair, untimely, and unreasonable” burden to place on the backs of Bahamians.
Noting that in September 2012, five months prior to the failed gambling poll, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis, in response to the sovereign credit downgrade by Standard & Poor, indicated that the Government was planning to release its Tax Reform White Paper for public consultation “next month” (October 2012), Mr McCartney said it is clear from all indications that the idea of introducing VAT was well in play prior to January 2013.
“The Prime Minister confirmed this during the mid-term budget debate in February 2013 saying; ‘The Government is implementing a broad tax reform package that includes the introduction of a Value Added Tax (VAT) in July 2014. While that is an ambitious timeframe, I would note that we have had the benefit of detailed studies of the feasibility of VAT in The Bahamas’.”
Mr McCarntey added: “Mr Christie in the House of Assembly continued: ‘The White Paper (which was completed in September 2012) contains a fully articulated policy framework for VAT. Following the public consultation process, the Government will present a refined proposal, and advanced legislation to bring VAT into effect’. We are gravely concerned about Mr Christie who recently suggested to Parliament and the nation that the Prime Minister had high level talks with the Minister of Finance on the VAT issue.
“At this meeting the Prime Minister confirmed that the Minister of Finance, who apparently does not listen to the Prime Minister, was moving ahead on VAT and for this reason he (the Prime Minister) left him (the Minister of Finance) at home and would only let the Prime Minister speak.”
With these comments in mind, Mr McCartney said the public needs to worry that Mr Christie’s views are “schizophrenic” on this issue as he appears to be blaming “his alter ego for VAT”.
“Mr Michael Halkitis, the Minister of State for Finance, stated earlier this year that, apart from the imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT), the Bahamas has no other viable option to spark the required streams of revenue it needs to arrest government debt.
“However, Prime Minister Christie, speaking either as Prime Minister or one of his alter egos, stated that if anyone in the public sector has a better idea he is ready to listen. Numerous local and foreign consultancy groups later, we in the Democratic National Alliance ask, is this the same Christie who in 2013 rejected the Nassau Institute commissioned independent research study of ‘The Potential Impact of VAT for our country’ by Mr David Godsell accusing him of ‘distorting the truth’, and dismissed the DNA’s ideas as ‘nonsense’?
“Our country has not rebounded from the most devastating recession we have ever had and in light of the pending introduction of Value Added Tax we in the DNA are left to wonder if this current government truly cares about Bahamians. It cannot be fair for struggling hard working citizens of the Bahamas trying to make ends meet to now be faced with the fear of not being able to afford the basic survival items because of VAT. Moreover, the people of the Bahamas must be reminded that this government campaigned on putting people back to work and instead they now propose to put extra taxes on their backs,” he said.
At this time, the DNA leader noted, VAT is unfair, untimely, unreasonable and undesirable.
He said: “Mr Prime Minister there are alternatives… you just need to listen. Bahamians are living in a state of fear. Fear of crime, fear of increasing financial insecurity, and now, fear of VAT. There is no clear vision in sight from this group of merry men in the PLP. Their leader has been late, inconsistent and out of touch with the issues that face Bahamians daily.
“Our country is at a critical crossroad and demands that we make the tough decisions to lead our country to prosperity. We need strong dynamic leadership with a clear vision for our country. We need leadership that is not afraid to lead.”