By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE deputy prime minister yesterday pledged to crackdown on the "big problem" of smuggling, although he was unable to quantify how much this costs the government in lost revenue.
K Peter Turnquest, addressing a Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) breakfast, said: "With respect to smuggling, this is a big problem. We have plans and programmes in place that are going to stop much of that.
"We are not going to get all of it because we are a creative people, but we intend to stop it as best we can. We recognise that our islands are being used, and that's unfortunate. I can assure you that the Ministry of Finance is working with the customs department, it is working with the police department and all of the relevant agencies.
"We have plans to ensure that we mitigate and minimise the activity that is happening around this country. It does, in fact, have a direct impact on our revenue and as a result taxation. We are doing all to weed the smuggling out."
Mr Turnquest further warned: "If you are involved in smuggling, the non-stamping of cigarettes, tobacco and other goods; if you are smuggling goods through our islands and not paying duty, today would be a good day to discontinue that practice."
The Deputy Prime Minister, when questioned further by Tribune Business, said it was difficult to quantity exactly how much government revenue is lost as a result of smuggling.
"It's difficult to quantify, but we do know that there is activity," he said. "We want to encourage importers to play by the rules because, at the end of the day, if everyone plays by the rules it will make the system fairer and allow us to contain our tax structure such that we do not put more burden on those who are playing by the rules."