While dramatically increasing the customs duty rates (across the board) on imported goods in their 2008/2009 review of the customs tariff act; and again doing a number on the rates of very basic essential items, in their 2010/2011 budget, the Ingraham Administration-for some strange mysterious reason or reasons (the merit of which I am still in a state of total amazement)-chose to permit the importation of “Bread” and “French Fries” completely duty free. As a former customs officer-who prides himself on understanding most of the logic or lack thereof behind the thinking of all the finance ministers, in the past, when they chose to (or chose not to) allow an item or certain items to be admitted duty free-I don’t mind admitting to you that this one beats the hell out of me. Using all sensible, logical and intelligent reasoning (given the fact that the manipulation of the customs tariff rates, by governments, is done primarily to protect the health and welfare of the nation and to protect the industries of local producers from foreign competition and dominance) both these items, i.e. French Fries and prebaked Bread, should never be allowed into the country “duty free” and for very good reasons which I will make clear as I move along in this writing.
Questions loom as to what logical reasoning could there be that would prompt the Ingraham government to levy customs duties on educational books, including the Holy Bible, while allowing the importation of “French Fries” completely “Duty Free?” In addition, while dozens of Bahamian employees, working at dozens of bakeries throughout the country, are up at the crack of dawn baking fresh bread for the local market each day, the Ingraham Administration-catering, obviously, to a special interest group in the country-allows bread, produced by bakeries in the United States of America, to be imported “duty free” as well; this in direct competition with the Bahamian bread producers. Can Bahamian bakeries produce bread in sufficient quantities, on a daily basis, to supply the local demand? Of course, they can do; then what the hell do you think would prompt Ingraham’s FNM government to remove the import levy from foreign produced bread which levy, heretofore, gave Bahamians an edge in the market over foreign imports; but now, with its removal, leaves them vulnerable and unable to compete, in the local market, with their giant counterparts to the north of us? It should be borne in mind that the product, “French Fries’, by virtue of the process employed, generally, in its preparation is regarded, by all medical experts whom I’ve interacted with, as being not good for ones health and usually most of them would advise against its consumption. And so I ask one more time, why in the hell would Hubert Ingraham, minister for finance and prime minister of this country, chose to levy a 10% import tax on “The Holy Bible” while simultaneously allowing French fries, which is bad for our health, into the country duty free? I am convinced that I’ve gotten my answer recently during a conversation with one of “Bay Street’s” elite Bahamian business persons.
The story, as told by the white business lady, is that the franchise holders of two of the foremost fast food franchise operations in Nassau (not Freeport)along with the support of Ingraham’s Freeport fishing buddy( the one who became of age and retired a couple years ago after working at the top of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Ltd for forty plus years, who is also suspected of being a minor shareholder in the said fast food chains) allegedly took Ingraham out fishing, one drunken weekend, and lobbied successfully his agreement to make the necessary changes to the tariff act to facilitate the “duty free” importation of the already mentioned items. No in-depth study; no big time plot; no cabinet discussion on the matter and no regard for the Bahamian business operators who have now already been hurt, but just use his powers given him by us voters to enrich his friends at our expense. It is further alleged that the real reason for Ingraham’s decision to remove the import restrictions, with respect to foreign chicken imports, and thus put Bahamian producers at risk of going out of business was to conclude the deal he made with those fast food tycoons on that drunken weekend fishing trip. In conclusion the story teller opined that every time Ingraham gets happy from his alleged excessive consumption of what the Indians used to call “Fire water” poor, depraved, struggling Bahamians get screwed, big time.
As minister of the country’s finances, Ingraham’s actions, in this regard, are extremely suspicious to say the least and are so very obvious a “hell of a deal” for these franchise holders. Why else (logically) would he tell Bible readers and churchmen that they must pay 10% customs duties on all the Bibles and prayer books they import while telling his Bay Street masters that they can get their French fries and bread imported free of customs duties; and that they can have the import restrictions removed from foreign poultry imports? Why else would he say to the local poultry (chicken) and bread producers that from here on in (and for at least as long as he is in power which is exactly another 21 months) they would have to compete, on a level playing field, with their foreign competitors for their share of the local Bahamian market without his FNM government’s protection; all this while telling his Bay Street masters that they can import bread free of customs duties and chicken free of any and all import restrictions? Why else, I ask you? The puppet is a disgrace to his race.
It was, I believe, Mr. Etienne Dupuch, former Editor of the Nassau Daily Tribune who once said, many years ago prior to his death, that one gets the kind of government one deserves; I believe the man was right.
Forrester J Carroll J.P
Freeport, Grand Bahama