By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The private sector was yesterday said to be developing its formal response to “a number of concerns” over the 2016-2017 Budget, including the reduced Value-Added Tax (VAT) payment window.
Edison Sumner, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) chief executive, confirmed to Tribune Business that the narrower VAT filing/payment timeframe from January 1, 2017, onwards was among the business community’s key concerns.
The Government is proposing to narrow the time that the 6,000-plus VAT registrants have to file their returns, and submit payment, from 28 days after the period ends to just 21.
“We’ve already expressed those concerns to the Government over the filings and met with them to discuss the proposed changes in the period,” Mr Sumner told Tribune Business. “There are a number of concerns we have.”
The BCCEC chief executive declined to go into detail on the private sector’s concerns, saying its Board wanted to meet on and discuss the Budget first before obtaining more feedback, and then putting out a formal response.
Mr Sumner confirmed that the Chamber’s Board met yesterday morning, and that “a full, comprehensive position” on the Budget and its implications would be reached by the middle to end of next week.
He told Tribune Business, though, that he would liked to have seen “more emphasis” on how the Government planned to improve the ‘ease of doing business’ in the Bahamas, and reverse a trend that has seen the Bahamas slump to 106th in the World Bank rankings.
“That is one of the areas we still have a lot of concerns with, and would liked to have seen more emphasis on how the Government intends to manage the ease of doing business aspects of operating in the Bahamas,” Mr Sumner said, “and more incentives to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to get businesses thriving and moving in the country, particularly in the Family Islands, where there are challenges in doing business in depressed areas.”
The Prime Minister glossed over the ‘ease of doing business’ issue in his Budget, merely stating: “One area that requires immediate attention and action relates to the vital improvements that are needed in our domestic business environment, as identified in the State of the Nation report.
“Quite strikingly, the Bahamas ranks 106th of 189 nations in the World Bank ‘ease of doing business’ index.”
He added: “Some of the areas of particular concern are registering property, access to credit, starting a business and getting secure and lower priced electricity.
“We appreciate that improvements must be brought to these and other areas of the business environment, and that our economic and social prospects demand such improvements. We are working diligently to that end. For instance, the office of the Registrar General has now implemented an efficient online process for the registration of companies.”
Elsewhere, Mr Sumner added: “The Budget appeared to be headed in the right direction so far as reducing the debt and the deficit.
“The Government is putting in a very strong financial management programme to reduce the leakage coming out of the Customs Department, and seeking to strengthen Customs’ management systems, and if they’re able to do that they will certainly be able to raise more revenue to afford what they’re allowing in tax breaks.”