By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday his party will introduce an “annual tax-free day” in August, if his party is elected in the next general election.
He said his party will also reveal its plan to overhaul the country’s employment laws and “after careful consideration and consultation incrementally increase the minimum wage”.
Dr Minnis also said that in the second quarter of this year, the Free National Movement (FNM) will initiate a “transformative” community pilot project for inner-city communities.
He added that if elected to government, his party would introduce “tax-free zones for the revitalisation of Over-the-Hill, the inner city and depressed areas”.
He said that the FNM has established a committee to review the implications of Value Added Tax (VAT) and the possibility of repealing the tax on items that cause “pain, suffering and undue stress” on the Bahamian people.
He made his comments during a nationally televised New Year’s address that aired last night.
Dr Minnis said instead of overtaxing the “poor and declining middle class” the government should tax the “winnings of the recently enacted gaming legislation”.
“The FNM has established a committee to review the implications of VAT and the possibility of repealing VAT on all bread basket items, all children’s clothing, electricity and water, savings products and all health coverage and insurance. These simple measures would provide relief to the poor and the declining middle class,” he said, reiterating comments he made to The Tribune on Sunday.
“The government should tax, however, the winnings of the recently enacted gaming legislation. The FNM also believes that additional help should be provided by the declaration of an annual tax free day in August, associated with the back-to-school shopping timeframe, to assist families with school aged children. We are very concerned by the many reports of overpricing by businesses, which took place even before VAT’s implementation. To this end, the FNM will be vigilant and watchful with the best interest of the people at heart.”
Dr Minnis also said the FNM will create a special VAT unit headed by Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest to address the public’s VAT issues and concerns.
“In the coming year, our FNM team will closely monitor this PLP government’s spending and will expose wasteful spending practices through the revitalised Public Accounts Committee. We must ensure that the additional taxes collected from you, the public, are not squandered by the wasteful and unnecessary spending we have witnessed over these past two and a half years.”
He encouraged the public to contact the FNM’s VAT unit with all concerns and issues. “We will be releasing contact details for the unit in the upcoming weeks,” he said.
On the issue of inner-city transformation, Dr Minnis said his party plans to improve the standard of living and eradicate the habitat that breeds criminality and hopelessness.
“Life continues to be challenging for those who live in the Over-the-Hill areas,” he said. “The PLP continues to neglect these areas. Therefore we intend to deepen our discussions with key stakeholders to share our framework for such an initiative. In the second quarter of this year, we intend to initiate a transformative community project as a pilot of what is possible if you have focused leadership in charge of the government.
“The FNM, in our next term in government, will introduce tax-free zones for the revitalisation of Over-the-Hill, the inner city and depressed areas.”
On Tuesday, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts called Dr Minnis a “flip-flopper extraordinaire” for pledging to repeal certain categories of VAT.
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.