EDITOR, The Tribune.
Once again, The Bahamas looks likely to be forced to do the right thing for its population only after being bullied into it by outsiders.
As powerful international lobbies agree on a 15 percent minimum global corporate tax, the excuses of Bahamian governments for running this country on a pitiful budget and making the poor pay for it are rapidly disappearing.
At under 18 percent, The Bahamas spends less of its wealth on its people than almost any other country in the world – a direct result of exempting rich people and corporations from paying their share. That is the root of almost every problem we have (including crime) and the primary cause of inequality in The Bahamas.
So when wealthy merchant “reformers” like Robert Myers can loudly advocate that the solution to our problems is to cut back even further on spending, rather than tax companies like his own, it takes an exceptionally worthless media not to call them out.
In fact, thanks to our media not doing its job, I would guess that many Bahamians unthinkingly accept the outrageously false narrative of groups like Mr Myers’ that we spend too much, rather than too little, on running our country.
As for taxation, little distinction is made by the media between taxes on the poor (like VAT and duties), of which we have too much, and taxes on the wealthy (such as on luxury properties and high incomes) of which we have, respectively, too little and none whatsoever.
They just parrot the “too much tax” mantra, ignoring the obvious fact that it is not the size, but the imbalance of the tax burden that is the problem.
A media so lacking in intellectual curiosity that reporters do not even seek international comparisons when reporting the nonsense put out by regressive interest groups posing as “reformers” leaves the country at a severe disadvantage in terms of public policy – especially considering the low-quality politicians who now hold the reins.
A good example relates to Bahamasair, a favorite target of pro-austerity “reformers”.
The current custodians of the airline treat Bahamasair as if it were a drag on the country, constantly referring to it as a “burden” on taxpayers. But surely, the same could be said about the police force, clinics, government schools or any other public service that does not turn a profit.
Long before serving as Minister of Finance, my father was the founding Chairman of Bahamasair. As such, he understood both what it cost the treasury and what it gained the nation. Like the government of the day that started it, he knew it was never intended to make a profit, or even to support itself.
Rather, it was a valuable national development tool in a tourist-dependent country spread out over 100,000 miles of sea, with far flung, lightly populated islands that couldn’t possibly support a financial case for scheduled air services, but were nonetheless home to citizens with a right to affordable travel to and from their capital.
Bahamasair has lived up to its mandate and then some. While the peoples of the southern Caribbean fret about having to transit through Miami to visit a neighbouring island 50 miles away, Bahamians take for granted having modern, affordable transport around their archipelago with an airline that in 48 years has maintained a globally-rare 100 percent safety record.
But today, its current chairman, Tommy Turnquest (a political appointee) has reacted to the fall-off in revenues due to the pandemic by hiking domestic fares, which in tandem with new fees for “health visas” and COVID-tests, has drastically increased the price of often-obligatory domestic travel.
So in this time of crisis, with massive job losses and strained medical services, our backward leaders decide that it is better to increase the financial burden on the intended beneficiaries of Bahamasair than shift some of that burden to those who can afford to pay more tax and, in any other country, would already be doing so.
What an utter disgrace.