By JADE RUSSELL
THE government’s decision to push back the VAT Holiday for back-to-school shopping was criticised by the Free National Movement and has caused frustration among some parents.
Last year, the VAT holiday began on August 16 and lasted through to September 6.
However, this year, the event is from August 22 to September 11.
Meanwhile, government schools will open this year on August 29, with at least one private school opening its doors yesterday.
In a press statement released on Sunday, FNM leader Michael Pintard noted the change and castigated the Davis administration for being disorganised leading to the VAT holiday’s launch being botched.
He said: “While the government has provided no explanation, we can only surmise that this is yet another example of poor public policy execution by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The public is fully aware that the government never committed to doing the VAT back-to-school holiday period during the budget exercise or at any point afterward, even after the FNM asked about it.
“It is only on the insistence of the FNM’s inquiry that the government was embarrassed into doing the right thing. True to form, because the Davis administration is chronically late and disorganised, they botched the launch date and did not give merchants sufficient time to adjust their systems. Now without any apology, they have adjusted the dates, giving parents insufficient notice and time to take advantage of this important initiative for Bahamian parents.
“We in the FNM are pleased that the government took our advice and extended the VAT back-to-school programme for the third year. However, we call on them to get serious about governance and to get themselves organised and focused on delivering help for Bahamians, as opposed to their busy schedule of international travel and posing for public relations photo-ops.
“We also call on the Davis administration to embrace our other recommendations to reduce gasoline tax in the near term, and to eliminate the VAT on bread basket items, medicine, and baby supplies. To pay for these tax concessions, we demand that they abandon their illegal removal of tax on yachts and that they put back in place the 12 percent VAT on real estate over $2m.”
Yesterday, The Tribune canvassed some parents who expressed their displeasure with the holiday being delayed.
A mother of two who did not wish to be named said: “I’m definitely not happy about it. As far as I knew it was supposed to begin today. I’m shopping in anticipation of having that VAT reduction. It is quite surprising that we still have to pay VAT today. Even though I kind of pushed it back last week, when I heard it began on the 15th. I wanted to make sure that I was able to do some savings by waiting until today.”
The mother said she is very disappointed in the timeframe being moved, especially as some schools are already open. She added that buying books is challenging with some textbooks being limited in stock and hard to find.
“So, it’s a lot of factors to take into account with the government pushing the plan backwards,” she said.
Another mother of a fourth grader said the government needs to be a little more “considerate”.
She said if parents can save on buying books it would be a great help because students desperately need supplies for school. The mother stressed every year the price of textbooks increases, which makes back to school shopping even more challenging.
She believes the VAT holiday should have been implemented from the beginning of August when most parents start preparing and shopping for the academic school year.
The mother of a fourth grader described the government postponing the holiday as just bad timing.
Other parents posted their sentiments on social media, with one saying: “Why change the original date issued to two weeks before school opens?”
“Are you suggesting that in order to get VAT relief, everyone should wait last minute to shop for their children? Who is this benefitting? Certainly not the parents who wish to find items on the shelves.”