Dr. Hubert Minnis gives position on VAT

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Dr. Hubert Minnis - Leader of the Opposition.

Leader fears VAT will seriously impair the already weak economy

STATEMENT:

FNM Leader fears VAT will seriously impair the already weak, un-competitive, and struggling Bahamian economy;and harm and diminish the quality of life of every Bahamian!

Because of callous disregard the Christie Government will stuff VAT down the throats of the Bahamian people, whether the people agree or not.

The vast majority of Bahamians—the business community, foreign investors, rank and file FNM and PLP supporters, throughout our country—are confused and terrified by the PLP government’s sudden lurch towards the imposition of the new VAT taxation system: a “regressive” taxation system which promises to subject the Bahamian people and economy to the immediate imposition of at least a 15% levy across the board, and which has the almost certain potential to significantly and negatively increase the cost of living in every sphere upon the backs, particularly, of the poorest Bahamians, and the long suffering and shrinking middle class.

The Free National Movement is concerned that the PLP government – apart from being manifestly ill-prepared and un-informed about the details of the proposed new system – intends, notwithstanding such ignorance, to shove the VAT tax down the throats of the Bahamian people, whether the People agree or not.

Such callous disregard for the Bahamian tradition and political necessity for consultation and for the informed consent of the governed is simply unacceptable!

The Free National Movement calls upon the government to immediately “come clean” to the People, and to explain, precisely and clearly, what the circumstances are which have prompted this sudden lurch towards the imposition of VAT. The PLP should immediately disclose to the Bahamian People the details of any economic studies and analyses either by domestic or international advisors or agencies which have led the government to this proposed course of action. The government must also disclose to Bahamians whether they have explored ALL potential alternatives available in order to expand the tax revenue base, and disclose any such reports which have detailed alternative tax solutions, other than a VAT system; stating why the government decided to propose VAT instead of the many alternative systems which could have been proposed.

The Free National Movement also notes the danger of the perpetuation of the government’s reckless and un-disciplined “tax, spend and waste” approach to governance. We are disturbed that while threatening to force a new and disruptive across the board tax on struggling Bahamians, this tax, spend and waste government has not at the same time announced any new measures designed to limit the growth of public spending, eliminate the waste of public funds on non-productive field trips abroad, pet projects of politicians, bloated and obscure contracts for friends, lovers and political cronies, and the political employment of a host of aged, retired and unproductive “consultants”, among other abuses of public finances by the PLP. Bahamians should be reminded that in just over a year the PLP government has already borrowed more than $1 Billion, with NOTHING to show for it!

The FNM reminds the government that “more important than what you make, is what you spend”. Even the highest income earners can end up in bankruptcy, if their spending is greater than their vast income.

The Free National Movement also calls upon the government to release its draft legislation for the imposition of VAT immediately. Government spokesmen in addressing the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants and other groups have referred to specific provisions of the draft legislation, but have failed either to circulate the entire document for public review and consideration, or to Table the same in the House of Assembly. This approach by the PLP government is nothing short of deceptive. Such an approach, of “governing by subterfuge” only adds to public confusion, uncertainty and fear. The Bahamian People have a right and a legitimate expectation, to expect and to demand better, more respectful and transparent treatment from the government.

On a pressing national issue, such as the sudden imposition of the 15% surcharge called VAT, such “government by subterfuge” is absolutely unacceptable.

The Free National Movement calls upon the PLP government to treat Bahamians with the respect that they deserve, and calls for full and immediate disclosure of all of the facts, matters, reports, analyses and considerations which have caused the government to embark on the present proposed course of action.

In the absence of full disclosure and transparency by the government, the Bahamian People are fully justified in having the gravest suspicions about the government’s motives; and justified in their fear that the PLP government’s extravagant spending, poorly implemented policy initiatives, and the sudden lurch to impose the new VAT will seriously affect and impair the already weak, un-competitive, and struggling Bahamian economy; and negatively and permanently harm and diminish the quality of life of every Bahamian.