By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
DETERMINED For Absolute Change, a new civic organisation based in Grand Bahama, strongly disapproves of the increase in value added tax by the government and is organising a march in Freeport tomorrow to protest it.
Troy Garvey, chairman of DFAC, said many Bahamians in the country, particularly in Grand Bahama, are not pleased with the increase in VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
The organisation is calling on residents of Grand Bahama to assemble at the old Portion Control grounds on West Atlantic Drive at noon tomorrow for a prayer and worship rally, followed by a procession starting at 3pm to the Office of the Prime Minister in the Harold DeGregory Government Complex.
"We will have a peaceful march, and make our voices heard," Mr Garvey said.
Although the budget was passed in the House of Assembly on Monday night and now has to be passed by the Senate, the Grand Bahama activist said that they are determined to see to it that VAT does not increase. The government intends for the increase to take effect on July 1.
Mr Garvey is appealing to the governor general of the Bahamas to intervene on behalf of the Bahamian people.
"We are aware that a parliamentary decision can be reversed, and the people are not pleased with the decision," he said.
"It (the VAT increase) is going to create havoc on the people of this nation," Mr Garvey warned, blaming successive governments for the country's increasing debt. "We in the DFAC group are making a plea to government, and it is quite clear that even a lot of persons on the government side are not pleased with it."
FNM MPs Frederick McAlpine (Pineridge), Reese Chipman (Centreville), Vaughn Miller (Golden Isles) and Travis Robinson (Bain and Grants Town) voted against an increase in VAT, along with three members of the Official Opposition who were present.
"We will march on Grand Bahama to send a clarion message to the government to revisit, reverse, and stop it," Mr Garvey said.
Even though the government has increased the personal travel exemption, he noted that with the 12 percent VAT, middle class and poor Bahamians would not be able to travel abroad and shop.
Mr Garvey also expressed concerns over the high unemployment rate in Grand Bahama.
Etienne Farquharson, one of the founders of DFAC, said the government is inflicting pain on Bahamians with the VAT levy.
He noted that the sale of the Grand Lucayan hotel has not yet materialised, and improvements are needed in the public health care system.
"We are here to sound the alarm with the march, and we invite all people of Grand Bahama, and people of goodwill to join us because we are all in this together," he said.
Jonathan Glinton, director of DFAC, believes it is important that Bahamians take a stand.
"We want Bahamians to let their voices be heard against the VAT increase that the government is imposing on us. It is a sad day in this country when the people we elect to represent us and look after our interest feels it is justified for them to put unfair taxes on us," he stressed.
Mr Glinton noted that some $2.5bn in VAT revenue was raised from 2015, and wanted to know what was done with that money.