We should listen to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
As much as some resent the tourism industry for its position at the heart of our economy, it’s in all our interests for this particular boat not to be rocked unnecessarily.
This week, we have seen the Bahamas Hotel, Catering & Allied Workers Union and employers come toe to toe with one another. The union is due to hold a strike vote tomorrow. The hotels, unsurprisingly, don’t want any disruption to affect customers.
But Mr D’Aguilar is right when he urges people to “get into a room and ensure they come to an amicable solution”.
The workers are concerned about proposals to eliminate automatic gratuities – a significant part of their take-home pay – plus a suggestion of delaying the Christmas bonus and eliminating the traditional ham and turkey gift.
Those are valid concerns – that extra money from gratuitites can be the difference between being able to pay a bill or not for workers, while the timing of the Christmas bonus can pay for their own Christmas gifts and celebration.
But this strike vote feels like it is too soon.
Union leaders seem to have a clear response from their members to the initial proposal, so can’t that “No” be delivered while sitting across a table from employers rather than starting a ticking clock until strike action is held?
Even if a strike is held – the best it can achieve is to force employers back to the table to talk anyway.
“This is a negotiation process,” says Mr D’Aguilar – and he is right.
This is the time to do just that – negotiate.
Our tourism sector has been growing handsomely – and workers deserve recognition for their part in that, for sure – so why risk stifling that growth until all other options are exhausted.
The hotels too will be aware that in any negotiation, there needs to be give on both sides. We do hope cooler heads can prevail and come to the best solution for all – rather than hotter heads rushing us towards a strike that will do no one any good.
Gaze into our crystal ball
Today is Budget day – so what will Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest – wearing his Finance Minister hat – have in store for us?
He’s already put a spike in fears that value added tax would be increasing, despite what the whispers on social media had been saying. Indeed, he pointed a finger at the PLP for “scare mongering” over that – and if the PLP are so against a rise in VAT, I’m sure we’ll all be delighted for party leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis to promise not to raise the tax should they win the next election.
But peering into The Tribune’s crystal ball, what can we see?
Airbnb looks likely to attract some kind of taxation – to stop leeching money away from the hotels and to ensure some money goes into govt coffers from the growing market.
Yacht charter fees also look likely to be a target, possibly bringing the govt as much as $50m a year. The trick with this fee? It’s not new. It’s sitting there just waiting to be collected already. All it takes is improved collection methods.
Our crystal ball tells us that will be a theme – and there are more such fees and taxes out there that might be the focus of this budget. Property taxes, for one.
So looking further ahead, what can we see coming in the future?
After all, there’s an election coming, so next year we’ll be unlikely to see lots of extra taxes. Hurting the pocket is seldom a good election tactic.
Indeed, peer a little closer and… could we see a tax cut? Could we even see VAT cut to 10%?
Now that indeed is a future worth seeing.