By Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya
If Bahamians really want to understand what’s happening in our country, The Tribune’s Business Section is where the action is at. So I noticed, with great interest, an article in yesterday’s Tribune outlining how the Ministry of Tourism and the government is drafting legislation to tax the home rental sector.
By now, we all know the country’s finances was left in shambles by the last administration. We also know, due to the shambolic state of our finances, that the current government is looking under every nook, cranny and couch cushion to find more money to put in the country’s coffers.
While the move to come to agreement with Airbnb, on the surface, looks like one that will only affect ‘da rich people dem,’ the truth is that many Bahamians are now engaged in the business of “renting rooms” to tourists. This industry, which is mainly an online venture, has seen dollars (and Euros) move from the purses of guests wanting to experience an ‘authentic Bahamas’ experience to the purses of entrepreneurs as far as from Lyford Cay to “Over da Hill”.
It’s the latter group I’m more concerned with.
I can tell you, from personal experience, that renting property, to locals as well as tourists, is a fickle adventure these days. There are so many considerations to take into account, including the cost of electricity, the cost of cable services, the cost of telephone services and the cost of real property taxes.
Now, bear in mind, that all of these costs already have VAT slapped on them like an old-fashioned Bahamian parent would discipline a wayward child with a taped-up “switch”. In other words, these taxes hurt.
When I read statements on the country’s $100,000 ceiling and the fact that Airbnb likes taxes that are “clean and easy and easy to collect” it makes me nervous. Has the government, with their new best friends (Airbinb) done the research to understand how many Bahamians surpassed this $100,000 threshold? If so, have the headlines that have been generated worth all this fuss or is the Ministry of Tourism simply looking at the industry as a whole?
The Tribune’s article had some great stats: 1,200 active hosts and 1,900 active listings.
I know that the previous administration had implored Bahamians to register with the Hotel Licensing Department. (And like true Bahamians, on Bahamian time, most probably didn’t.) I also know that, on average, most of the people who rent out a room or two most likely do not meet that $100,000 threshold. Yet, there goes our Minister of Tourism smiling while agreeing to... something.
I told you, in a previous column, that fiscal responsibility will hurt. Hearing that VAT will most likely be levied on this type of venture that even ‘the little man’ has gotten savvy to only reaffirms my beliefs. And that ‘clean’ taxation means that the powers that be are looking at 7.5 to be rounded up instead of down.
Get ready Mama “Over da Hill” looking to make a few dollars renting out a room in “the hood”. The government is onto you now. And just like Mr Rainy Day in the summer, the taxman cometh! You may need an aspirin or two.
The Hitman Cometh
It takes a lot to shock me, however I must admit this week I was actually shocked.
When I heard little Nassau had become eerily similar to a scene from “Narcos”.
And “social media” only compounded it.
Is this where we are as a nation?
With rumours awash of “hitmen” coming to town, with their targets being the PM, Dr Hubert Minnis, the Minister of National Security, Marvin Dames, AG Carl Bethel and his Minister for Legal Affairs in the AG’s, office Ellsworth Johnson?
National Security Minister Marvin Dames said that he remained “un wavered”.
And that the government would not “bow to threats as it continues its fight to eradicate corruption in our nation”.
“Just let me say this, no amount of threats is going to intimidate this government. I have been at this before and so we are not going to be distracted by persons believing or feeling as if they can intimidate. I am not concerned. I am not prepared to speak on that in any other way, but I will say this, we are a government and we govern by laws and all of those who are in contravention to those laws will be made account. No amount of intimidation, no amount of threats will change that, that’s reality. It’s as simple as that.”
What I find commendable, is that Dames has definitely been one of the shining members of the PM’s Cabinet thus far, talking the talk and walking the walk. Prepared to protect and serve his country and Prime Minister, and ensure law and order remains intact.
Let me hurry to the next paragraph, a Silver Honda has been outside my house for the last hour, I’m wondering if I’ve made the “hit list” also, and now they are coming to “whack” me as well?
What I find laughable, is Press Secretary Anthony Newbold told reporters that he knows of “no credible threats to the prime minister or anyone else”.
Mr Newbold also said the security detail “has not been beefed up” and “remains the same”.
I watch enough CSI and the First 48 to know that you don’t put critical, strategic security details out there to the masses, especially if intelligence confirms that there could potentially be hitmen in our midsts.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander seemed to endorse Mr. Newbold’s statements, telling The Tribune that he “has no information” regarding the alleged death threats, he also said “if it were true” police would take the matter “very seriously” and “act accordingly”.
So for now I’m just going to keep an eye open and an ear out and lay low.
The Warmonger Cometh
It’s hard to live in this new global economy and not take note of what’s happening in the world around us.
This week, US President Donald J Trump set tongues wagging and Twitter Fingers a twittering when he said, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the US”. He went on to say that if they did, they will be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.
Now, on the surface, this appears very dangerous. Bush 41 never spoke like this. Clinton never spoke like this. Bush 43 never spoke like this. And Obama (#44)never spoke like this. Now the world ( and the solar system, and the galaxy) has Trump.
Lest you forgot, Trump is different.
After hearing the American President react to them, North Korea actually put out a statement saying that Trump’s statement was “a load of nonsense”. In other words, they are “shook”.
North Korea’s ‘Great Leader,’ Kim Jun Un, has never had to deal with a world leader (correction; the world leader) as bellicose and bumptious as himself. Trump’s press release might as well have read, “You think you’re crazy? I’ll show you crazy!”
So, in their official response to Trump, the North Koreans revealed they know they are dealing with an unknown known. Sure, they threatened to bomb Guam (which they have threatened for decades) but they also acknowledged (unwittingly or not) that the status quo had changed.
North Korea has been building up its arsenal for more than a generation and puffing up its chest to the rest of the world. Now, they are attempting to cross a threshold most countries have determined they should not be allowed to cross. And the only thing standing in their way is a total narcissist who a) never served in the armed forces b) has as tough a rhetoric as they do and c) hates to lose.
I may not agree with him on 99.9% of the things he does ( or says) but my money is on Trump in this war of words. Kim Jung Un Crazy meet Donald J Trump Crazier. And may God be with us all!