Junior Minister Zhivargo Laing. (file photo)
Nassau, The Bahamas – Many would hate to see the ‘political son’, protégé of the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham descend from the political steps of politics and banished from the Parliament of The Bahamas under a cloud of scandal due to his involvement in the lowering/reclassification of a tariff on a drink called ‘Mona Vie’. (Mona LIFE, French Translation)
The ‘blue eye’ upcoming leader was the clearly moving up the ranks within his powerful political party however Zhivargo Laing has found himself, trapped into a serious bottle. Laing not only assisted in the lowering of a tariff back to 10% for his brother’s wife, but the minister lowered the tariff, when the rightful tax which should have been placed on the imported drink should have been 45%. In fact, customs reserves the right to receive all the back taxes owed to the People of The Bahamas if the lowering was done illegally in the first instance.
One then begin to wonder, how did this tariff end up in the wrong classification in the first place? This should be question number one when the House returns in its sitting. Prime Minister in his defense of his junior minister said, “The Comptroller of Customs has no authority to permit the import of the goods at 10% from June to November, and then to apply a rate of 45% beginning in November. If the rate should have been 45%, then the 45% should have been applicable from the time the drinks began to be imported.”
As for the authority of the Minister of Finance in this regard, Mr. Ingraham referred House members to the Customs Management Act Chapter 293, Section 154, which states:
“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Minister may, in order to meet the exigencies of any special case: a) permit any goods to be loaded onto or unloaded or removed from any aircraft or vessel on such days at such times at such places and under such conditions as he may direct either generally or in any particular case. The Minister may permit the entry of any goods and the report and clearance of any aircraft or vessel in such form or manner and by such person as he may direct generally or in particular cases.”
“They are the powers delegated to the Minister notwithstanding any other powers delegated to any Comptroller of Customs,” the Prime Minister emphasized.
Now can this be the reason why Laing’s brother asked for lowering of the tariff for his wife? The junior minister is indeed connected to the Prime Minister.
Bahamas Press now ask you, our loyal readers, how can it be fair for one women and her husband, family members of a government minister, who has the access to have their taxes reduced for them, have their way? Whilst thousands of hardworking and honest taxi drivers, who see the need to upgrade their vehicle got a deafening ear from that same minister, when they called on the Government of The Bahamas to rethink its decision, to discontinue tax exemptions on new vehicle purchases into the country?
Or where is the equilibrium of fairness, when the ministry of finance decided to discontinue the tax exemption on all first home buyers beginning this January 2008? In the midst of a downturn in the economy of The Bahamas, where the government have sought to slap taxes on the working poor and stall those who wish to get ahead, a junior minister is all through a government office, finding ways to cut the tariff cost for members of his family. That cannot be right, and just so unfair. This is a serious beach of the law, where the working poor have no recourse but pay, whilst the powerful and connected few find ways to cheat the system. Even through the hand of a junior minister.
This is our most central thought behind this most recent debate, and to avoid this dark cloud, that would not go away, we conclude that ‘Mona Vie’ can cause “Mort politique” for the FNM.