0

Gov't told: 'Live up to your end of the fiscal bargain'

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The private sector has contacted an international organisation that works to make governments more accountable for help in achieving the same in the Bahamas, as it told the Christie administration: “Live up to your end of the bargain”.

Robert Myers, the Coalition for Responsible Taxation’s co-chairman, yesterday told Tribune Business that it had reached out to the Open Government Partnership for help in increasing government transparency and accountability in the Bahamas.

This has been a key demand of the Coalition, and the wider private sector, in return for agreeing to embrace Value-Added Tax (VAT) and the Government’s demands for greater revenue.

And Mr Myers suggested that the One Government Partnership, which has 65 participating countries, could help the Coalition achieve a ‘wish list’ that includes Fiscal Responsibilities Act, Freedom of Information Act, better budgeting in government and statutory protection for whistleblowers.

While acknowledging that the Coalition had ‘conceded’ to the Government over VAT, Mr Myers suggested this acceptance could be revoked “at any point” if the Christie administration failed to meet its demands for wider fiscal reform and accountability.

Describing the Open Government Partnership as an initiative that had embraced open government and accountability as its central philosophy, Mr Myers said: “We’d obviously like to see that platform integrated into the Government and National Development Plan within this fiscal reform structure.”

He added that there was a criteria that nations had to meet to become members of the Open Government Partnership, with governments having to work with the private sector, civic groups and the public to achieve these goals.

“We’re going through a process of determining what the Bahamas has to do to become a member,” Mr Myers told Tribune Business. “There are certain criteria that have to be established before they become a member.

“We’re looking to get that incorporated into a plan, and encourage the Government to agree to it.”

Launched in 2011, the Open Government Partnership bills itself as “an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable and responsive to citizens”.

Adding that the organisation had grown from eight founder countries to 65, it added: “In all of these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms.”

The Tax Coalition co-chair then told Tribune Business the organisation had formally requested a meeting with Prime Minister Perry Christie; minister of state for finance, Michael Halkitis; and financial secretary, John Rolle, on the wider fiscal reform objectives that the Coalition wanted to accomplish.

Now that the Government is on the verge of implementing its desired VAT, and with the legislation and regulations safely passed, there is a body of opinion within the business community that believes it has little interest in wider fiscal reform.

Rick Lowe, the Nassau Institute executive, yesterday likened the private sector’s agreeing to VAT to “appeasement” of the Government, fearing little good will come of it.

This argument is that the Government, having got the revenue measures it largely wants, will decline to engage in discussions on subjects such as reining in its spending and how it uses the VAT revenue windfall - in short, it will not want to touch anything on the Tax Coalition’s agenda.

Still, Mr Myers said he still expected “absolute co-operation” from the Government. And he warned that the private sector could still withdraw its acceptance of VAT, even though some would argue that it has given up the leverage it previously held.

“We expect them to honour their end of the bargain, moving to some form of Freedom of Information Act, and accountability and transparency,” Mr Myers told Tribune Business.

“We’ve held up our end, supporting the current roll out of VAT, and now we need to see them put their money where their mouth is.

“It’s imperative that happens before too long. They can’t go quiet on us. What is the timeline, and how can we move the ball forward on a Fiscal Responsibilities Act, energy reform and all the other objectives of fiscal reform?” he asked.

“We have to figure out the best mechanism for doing that, where we can get the best help internally and externally, and have that dialogue.”

Responding to Mr Lowe’s criticisms that the private sector was essentially ‘appeasing’ the Government, Mr Myers acknowledged: “That may be true, and that is the case.

“But the tide can turn at any point if they don’t live up to their end of the deal - making sure there’s balance in this thing, and doing what is responsible rather than what is expedient.

“Taxes alone will not solve this issue. If they [the Government] go off thinking that, we still have work to do and are prepared to do that. That’s our position, We have certainly not forgotten, and we will not allow them to forget.”

Comments

asiseeit 9 years, 6 months ago

The private sector knows that it can not trust the government. It is also a given that unless the people get Freedom of Information the government will run roughshod over the people. We have given the government 40 years to do as they please with no oversight by the people and the government has FAILED. Nepotism, corruption, theft, waste, sloth, and a general caviler attitude towards governance has been the order of the day in the Bahamas for decades, and the people are paying a hefty price. The Bahamas is no longer able to afford this frivolous behavior from it's politicians and must have a F.O.I. act with teeth so we can monitor our politicians and what they are doing in OUR name.

0

Sickened 9 years, 6 months ago

How does someone put in words how utterly useless this, and former governments have been? I try to find the words but my hands always seem to curl up in a fist.

0

james_anna42 9 years, 3 months ago

Color is a fundamental element of landscaping design. It is not possible to develop any landscape without use of color theory. http://www.theorieslandscapes.org/">theorieslandscapes.org

0

Sign in to comment