By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government should set tariffs as high as 150 per cent on imported bottled water, a local manufacturer arguing that “hundreds of jobs” could be created from such a policy.
Tennyson Wells, the former Cabinet Minister and MP who heads the Source River group, the Echo Water producer, said imported rivals were undercutting Bahamian producers by more than 100 per cent “at least”.
“Hundreds of jobs could be created if they put in the appropriate tariffs, instead of importing all of this foreign water. I think the Government needs to create tariffs on water up to 150 per cent. A couple hundreds jobs would be created if they do that, and that’s more beneficial to the economy,” said Mr Wells.
The former MP charged that mineral water and spring water were being imported without the correct duty being paid. “It’s undercutting the local industry by more than 100 per cent at least,” Mr Wells said.
“People are bringing in mineral water or spring water when one duty is 45 per cent and the other is 85 per cent, The duty should be the same thing straight across the board, maybe 150 per cent or 130 per cent, something like that, and the local water manufacturing industry will really bloom. As it is right now it’s hurting jobs,” said Mr Wells.
Mr Wells’s comments echo past sentiments expressed by others in the industry, and dovetail the suggestions contained in a report by the Bahamas Trade Commission’s Manufacturing Sub-Committee.
The document, which was attached to the Trade Commission’s 2013 annual report, outlined a ‘protective tariff’ wish list requested by different sectors, with drinking water companies seeking duty rates on imported rivals ranging from 72 per cent to 150 per cent.
Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services, who has responsibility for trade and industry, said the Government has a “ very delicate balancing act” in ensuring Bahamian-owned industries and businesses are sustainable under the liberalised rules-based trading regime that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will usher in.