By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
IF webshop operators were to proceed with their legal fight against the government over the sliding scale taxes imposed on the sector last year, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government's legal team is "ready to go".
Addressing the dynamics of the latest round of discussions between the two sides on the sidelines of the 2019 New Year's Day Junkanoo Parade, Mr Bethel said his side remains ready to proceed in any direction web shop owners opt to go.
Mr Bethel told reporters in Rawson Square: "Let me just say it this way, I don't like to talk about matters that are presently active, but I will say this, we are ready to go to court at a drop of a hat and they will know what I mean when I say that."
He added: "We've had discussions, but I've said what I've said just now, I am ready, my lawyers are ready to go to court at the drop of a hat.
"That's where we are right now."
Early last month, Wayne Munroe QC, who represents the Island Game and Paradise Games operations, told Tribune Business that both sides had “identified one area where we have to go to court,” in a bid to narrow differences over the industry’s new taxation structure.
He identified this area as the sliding scale taxation structure imposed on web shop operators in the 2018-2019 budget, where it is proposed they be taxed at a progressively higher rate the more “taxable revenue” they earn.
He added their most recent discussions had focused on trying to “limit” the areas in dispute while ensuring the government still received its due tax revenues from the sector pending the Supreme Court’s verdict in the litigation.
Nonetheless, Mr Bethel yesterday insisted the government was prepared to proceed as necessary whenever the time arises.
In addition to his commentary on the webshop sliding tax, Mr Bethel also responded to questions on the government's views on the death penalty, its 2019 legislative outlook and recent criticism of the Minnis administration's Senate agenda.
Of the latter, Mr Bethel said suggestions the government's Senate mandate was failing to adequately address legislative demands, were only being made by an opposition party eager to critique the Minnis administration at every step.
He said the strategy was nothing new to local politics.
"When we were in opposition we said the same thing," Mr Bethel said with a slight smile. "The Senate is a subordinate body. It gets its lifeblood from the House of Assembly, so if the House of Assembly does not move as aggressively as we want or we can predict, we can't set our own agenda.
"We can't determine we are going to meet if there is nothing to debate. So the Senate depends on its lifeblood from the House and that is the way it has been."
He was responding directly to criticism levelled against the government by Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Fred Mitchell, who slammed the government last month for adjourning the Senate without a set date to return.
On the death penalty, Mr Bethel backed Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis' position, insisting the laws of the land needed to be carried out.
"I am sure (Dr Minnis) looks forward to us doing everything we can to ensure that law in the Bahamas is carried out," Mr Bethel said.
"It is on the agenda for all Bahamian laws to be carried out."
Lastly, when asked what he hopes to see occur in the New Year, Mr Bethel said the focus has to be a "stabilised, buffered and protected" Bahamian economy.
Referring to several legislative recommendations from "foreign powers," Mr Bethel said the country has to do what it can to move to a growth trajectory in all aspects of its economy.
He also said the country should look at creating avenues to encourage youth participation through technological advances.
The Bahamas recently passed a compendium of financial services legislation to bring it in-line with policies set out by the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD).