EDITOR, The Tribune.
Issue: The huge sums of money owed to the Government of the Bahamas, its ministries, departments and institutions. From newspaper and other media reports it is estimated that the total indebtedness could be over $1.5 million.
It appears that efforts being made to collect this money from delinquent businesses, taxpayers, employers, citizens and residents are ineffective and not producing the desired results. It has been disclosed that over $300m is owed our Government’s bank – Bank of The Bahamas. The bank’s efforts to collect from small debtors, such as car loans, are done through the civil courts. The huge sums in millions of dollars owed to the bank by high profile residents/citizens, politicians and political associates remain in limbo.
The “bad pay persons” continue to be delinquent and there appears to be no enforcement. There was an attempt made by the Central Bank to enforce payments through the courts. The Bank of The Bahamas objected. A company named Resolve was formed by a former government to collect these huge sums of money. It is not known what progress Resolve has made. A newspaper report two years ago disclosed that there were about 3,000 persons who had not paid Real Property Tax for a period of five years.
Persons, who pay real-property taxes are not among the poor. The property must be valued at $250K or more. This is not the so-called “small man.”There appears to he a lack of enforcement in collecting this tax. There was a resident of Lyford Cay, who some time ago stated privately, that he has never paid as he did not agree with the legislation. Deductions are made from the wages of employees for their National Insurance Board contributions and in some instances not paid. The discovery is made when the employee is ill or is out of work and has to apply for NIB assistance. It is a criminal offence, entitled; Fraudulent Breach of Trust, a section in the Fraud Act of The Bahamas Laws.
There is information that The Bahamas Development Bank is owed millions by delinquent debtors who are also among the elite group with the connections to obtain loans from government institutions. Ministry of Education loans to students going overseas to attend universities are very often not being repaid.
The Ministry has stated that court action will be taken to recover the money. There appears to be a “bad pay” culture we have developed over the past four decades and enforcement is lacking.
Ideas: (a) A government tax and debtors Court to efficiently and effectively deal with delinquent debtors. The Court to be convened by a Judge, who after hearing the civil matters must decide on how payments are going to be made. Disobedience of the Court Order could result in seizure of assets or incarceration. (b) Employ qualified collection agencies on a percentage basis. It is important, that our Government use every means at its disposal to collect the $1.5B owed by delinquent debtors. There must be a write-off of the debts. The media must ask the questions and keep the people informed.
PAUL THOMPSON, Sr. ACP-Ret
January 14, 2021.