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Editorial: Can There Be Smarter Ways To Pay The Bill?

The cost of Hurricane Dorian is beginning to become clearer.

Not the human cost - for that we still have the very slowly rising death toll and confusion over how many are missing. The financial cost to the nation, however, is starting to be priced up.

Finance Minister Peter Turnquest yesterday warned that the county will have a bill of more than $430m because of Hurricane Dorian - $230m in spending on recovery and $215m in revenue reduction.

That money, of course, will have to be made up from somewhere, and already there have been warnings of a cut in spending across government departments.

If you look around at government departments, certainly there is little sign of lavish spending in recent times on infrastructure - so as any manager of sizeable businesses will tell you, when significant cuts come that will often mean cutting jobs. Shrinking the number of people contributing to NIB or being able to pay for as much in VAT might not be as helpful as some might imagine.

Previously, Mr Turnquest has said there would be no new taxes or increases in existing taxes - although he always added one word at the end: yet.

That hour may be coming, but - isn’t it about time the government got a little creative with ways of raising revenue?

They’ve already been creative in one respect - setting aside $10m as a loan programme for small and medium-sized businesses to help recovery.

But can they be creative in taxes?

The Bahamas has a huge number of tourists, for example - is there a way to impose a short-term $5 tax per visitor to go towards hurricane recovery. Literally call it a hurricane recovery tax to let the visitor know that it’s going towards rebuilding the country they’re visiting.

How about those residents who live here for an environment free of income tax, in their Lyford Cay, or Old Fort Bay or Albany recluses? Without imposing an income tax, could a contribution be drawn from them? Perhaps a one-off tax on properties worth more than $5m?

It’s a dilemma - and one we don’t envy a Finance Minister who had worked so hard to balance the books. Dorian truly has blown a hole in the budget that the highest-performing economy in the world might have struggled to deal with.

But as he considers his options, we hope Mr Turnquest can find some inventive solutions - and that he’ll have the support of the Cabinet when he does.

Paying it forward

The challenge that The Bahamas faces, of course, would be all the tougher if it were not for the help we are receiving from elsewhere.

In today’s Tribune, for example, we report that China has donated $500,000 to the National Emergency Management Agency, making good on their earlier promise that the first $20,000 they donated was but the first aid they were offering.

Of course, in recent weeks, we have recorded donations from Canada, from the UK, from all manner of places. Even the nation of Micronesia donated $100,000 to assist - all of which does two things: helps to start the rebuilding right away, and eases the burden of cost later.

Significant help has come from the US - not just in donations, but in the hours and manpower of rescue teams immediately after the hurricane, without whose efforts many more lives might have been lost.

That time for donations has not stopped of course - aid will still be coming to us from afar, and we must make sure that we too continue to give to those in need.

The pace of donations at many shelters has slowed now after the initial rush, and more will be needed. Non-perishable food will always be welcomed for people stuck in shelters or staying in people’s homes who need to eat but now have no income, but there will be other specific donations needed too. Organisations such as the New Providence Community Church or the Equality Bahamas team based at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas will welcome your help.

After all, if the world is reaching out to help us, those of us able to do so should be reaching out too.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 1 week ago

Any kind of Dorian-related special tax targeting the wealthy would have them packing their bags and fleeing the Bahamas almost overnight. Just ask anyone in the Lyford Cay, Old Fort or Albany gated communities. Many of these wealthy individuals are already fed up with so many things in our country today, that they would probably welcome any excuse to high tail it.

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Dawes 1 month, 1 week ago

Also we all know that one off tax on the wealthy would soon become a yearly thing and the lower level would keep dropping until it got all of us. We are already an expensive country for tourists to come to so that $5 tax is silly. Yet again they didn't say cut expenditure in Government. We seem to be one of those countries who is trying to prove the idea that you can't tax yourself into prosperity wrong.

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Biminibrad 1 month, 1 week ago

As a second home owner there for twenty years, I can see the financial hardships coming. We a have have contributed tens of thousands to the economy only to see nothing from it. Lousy power supply, failure to reinvest in infrastructure, and almost broken everything. The money went some where. We have seen the cost of traveling just rise and rise with nothing to show for it. Agree with “ Well Muddas” observation.

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OMG 1 month, 1 week ago

What unfortunately exists amongst a small minority of Bahamians and including immigration is the misguided belief that foreigners are sponging of the country and underestimating the contribution winter residents make. Twice in my life have seen absurd behavior of a jumped up power hungry immigration and customs officer. Back in the 80's a wealthy American couple who had a house in Exuma who paid their taxes, bought everything locally were arriving at the airport and had nothing to declare. Upon searching bags he discovered two home recorded VHS tapes, held them aloft in front of all the other passengers and announced " you lied and are smuggling". End result they drove straight into George Town,put their house on the market and left on the next flight . Example 2. Eleuthera. Wealthy American residents who pay their taxes ,buy all their food gas on the island were granted only 30 days to stay. After many years they could not accertain why .End result house is on the market. That being said there are many excellent officers who go out of their way to make or foreign residents welcome but the few bad apples cost this country a lot of money.

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sheeprunner12 1 month, 1 week ago

Will Bahamians eversee/ know HOW much was donated ........ and WHERE it went?????

Has there been any donations from Joaquin/Irene/Matthew that could have assisted Crooked/Ragged Island/Andros etc.???? .......... The people want to know.

Has there ever been a financial donations reporting on the hurricanes going back to Andrew (1992)????

Look at the case before the courts with Gibson & Ash ......... Nassau surely enjoys the donations ......................... pathetic reality

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BahamaPundit 1 month, 1 week ago

Repost

So they gonna borrow hundreds of millions from China. Pad their pockets and build shabby crap and leave next election with pockets full and Bahamians more broke than ever before. Why not have the private sector build Abaco back in their own way and time. Let donations do the heavy lifting and not borrow a single dime. We all know that the hurricane damage will cost several billion to fix. We all know that Abaco will take ten to fifteen years to be built back to the way it was before the hurricane. We all know that Government borrowing goes hand in hand with rampant corruption and selling the Bahamian people down the river! We all know that China with their debt trap loans will control the entire country once all the ink has dried. We all know now that Bahamian independence was a complete scam pulled off by carpetbaggers looking to score easy loot and that African governments can best be compared to onions, because all they do is make you cry.

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birdiestrachan 1 month, 1 week ago

I was surprise to see Mr: Turnquest patting himself on the back and saying how great he is. When Dorian was at the door step of our Islands. He should have known it would make a great difference.

There is a lesson in Dorian for all Bahamians. especially for those who believe they have created the world and all there in.

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