By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMIANS must be put in position to "thrive in our own country" before the government moves forward with World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession, an activist group urged yesterday.
Citizens Against Bank Exploitation (CABE), which staged a protest in Rawson Square against the government's decision to increase the Value-Added Tax (VAT) rate from 7.5 to 12 percent, also called on it to implement Fiscal Responsibility and Freedom of Information laws, as well as explore this nation's natural resources for additional revenue.
Dr Denotrah Archer-Cartwright, lead organiser of CABE, said the group is "making a stand against VAT", warning that now is "definitely not the time to put an increased tax burden on the nation".
As for The Bahamas becoming a full WTO member, which the Minnis administration wants to achieve by end-2019, Dr Cartwright said: "If you're going to think about WTO accession, you have to think about putting your people in a position in which they can thrive in their own country and navigate globally.
"Are we there? We are having problems with our educational systems. Budgetary wise, we should see a strong focus on our educational system, our natural resources, development of a sovereign wealth fund and causing greater accountability by introducing the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Freedom of Information Act. They keep on telling us to wait but they are moving ahead very quickly and increasing our taxes."
Activist Paul Moss suggested that the Bahamas could earn revenue through taxing ships using this nation's territorial waters, and pointed out that many companies in the financial services sector operate virtually tax-free and are VAT exempt.