By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday branded Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis a “flip-flopper extraordinaire” for pledging to repeal certain categories of value added tax.
He questioned Dr Minnis’ capability to lead the country, pointing to the party’s rejection of tax reform during the House of Assembly’s debate on the issue. Mr Roberts said the time has passed for the FNM to now suggest amendments to VAT legislation and regulations.
The consumer-based tax took effect on January 1.
“As an FNM minister,” Mr Robert said in a press statement, “he agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendation that the Bahamas’ public finances were in need of tax reform and that VAT was the most viable option.
“When the FNM lost the election in 2012, his Cabinet colleague (Zhivargo) Laing reiterated the pro-VAT policy position of the FNM, had the party prevailed in the 2012 general elections.
“By the 2014/2015 budget debate, Minnis told the House and the Bahamian people that while he agreed that the country’s system of taxation was in need of reform, the FNM ‘was not on the VAT train.’ This was a flip-flop. He has not to this day pronounced a viable alternative. He bad mouthed the VAT policy and voted against it in Parliament.
“Days after the successful implementation of VAT with absolutely no help but strenuous opposition from Minnis and the FNM, he flip-flopped yet again telling the media that he is partly on board with VAT and would repeal some of it.
“It is both incredible and disgraceful that a person who wants to lead the Bahamas is incapable of articulating and defending a policy as important as tax reform based on principle and an appreciation for the needs of the country he claims he wants to lead.”
Mr Roberts added that Dr Minnis’ vow to repeal the tax was not the type of leadership that was beneficial to the country.
“The VAT ship has left the harbour, but Minnis wants to have one foot on the ship and one foot in the harbour. This is not the type of leadership that is beneficial to the Bahamas. He does not know his own mind therefore he cannot possibly have a firm command on the national challenges, needs of or solutions for the country.”
This comes a day after James Smith, financial advisor to the government, said Dr Minnis’ position on VAT was premature.
He cautioned the FNM to analyse the new tax system vigorously before it spoke definitively on the parts of VAT it would repeal should the party win the next general election.
On Sunday, Dr Minnis said his party is forming a plan to repeal certain categories of VAT if it wins the next election.
Dr Minnis said that a special commission has been established to look into several categories where VAT is applied, namely utilities, children’s clothing and bread basket items.
He added that the commission is also considering repealing the VAT charge on the management of pension funds.
“This government is again showing no respect for the poor or middle class,” he said on Sunday. “With an already shrinking middle class and poverty increasing, to further increase taxes (it) is an insult to the poor and middle class.
“The problem is erratic spending and poor collection of our taxes,” he added. “These are issues that must be addressed and the VAT taxes will cause great suffering in the country.
“The FNM has a committee to look into repealing sections of VAT, to protect certain areas like electricity and other utilities generally, such as water.”