Roberts: Allen’s comments on VAT disgraceful

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Laing and Bill “Bacardi8” Allen didn’t know what the hell they were doing in Finance when they destroyed the Bahamian economy under Ingraham regime

PLP Chairman, Bradley Roberts

By Bradley B Roberts

National Chairman, Progressive Liberal Party
As a former Central Bank Governor, State Minister for Finance and consultant to the Ministry of Finance under the former government, the Bahamian people do not expect nor do they deserve the likes of Sir William Allen misleading them, seeking to create confusion in the public domain and whipping up public hysteria on a national issue as critically important as VAT – for purely political purposes.

The government was very clear and said over and repeatedly through its VAT implementation team that customs duties will be reduced by 17% across the board, eliminating some $300 million in customs duties; the revenue replacement will be the application of a 15% VAT that will broaden the tax base, raise approximately $500 million in revenue and increase government’s revenue by some $200 million. The government could not be any clearer in communicating its fiscal consolidation plan and the underlying reasons to the general public.

Bill 'Bacardi 8' Allen - must be drinking hard again.

For the benefit of Sir William, these measures are “intended to reduce current taxes to make room in the economy for VAT” and to “strike a balance between existing taxes and the new structure” to quote Mr. Allen.  I humbly submit to the Bahamian people that Mr. Allen raised these issues only to create political mischief and confusion by trying to be clever by half. His behavior was unseemly and inappropriate because he should know better.

As a matter of fact, the Financial Secretary repeated this fact in the media no longer than last week so Mr. Allen has no excuse for his harmful behavior. Further, Mr. Allen was a consultant to the Ministry of Finance under the FNM when the government incurred some $2.0 billion in budgetary deficits. This trend is unsustainable and requires immediate, drastic and decisive actions. The Rt. Hon. Perry Christie and the Hon. Michael Halkitis are leading this charge and the Progressive Liberal Party fully supports VAT, the anchor of the government’s fiscal consolidation plan.

Bahamians are well aware of the fiscal challenges that confronted Jamaica some years ago and how that turned out; Barbados is facing similar fiscal challenges. For our part, this government is determined and resolute in its commitment to pulling The Bahamas from the edge of the fiscal cliff, a precarious position not of its own making, but a precarious position this government was charged by the Bahamian to correct and regularize. We thank them for their confidence and continued support.

Given the urgency of the hour and the critical importance of VAT to our economy and public finances, I decry the disproportional volume of misinformation, salacious headlines and rank negativity put in the public domain day after day. Creating confusion, negativity and hysteria in the public domain hurts everybody because we are all in the same proverbial boat and on the same pieces of rock we call The Bahamas. In the current circumstances inaction by the government is not an option and hurts everybody and so would a delay in the implementation of VAT.

The government relies heavily on the fourth estate for measured, sober, balanced, but critical commentary on this national issue and opinions not supported by empirical evidence should be vigorously challenged.

I point out that both major political parties (PLP and FNM) agreed with the necessity of VAT as one of the sustainable fiscal measures in facilitating the functional and structural transformation of our tax regime to assist the government in better meeting the fiscal demands of our developing nation.

I am confident that in the end this government will make the right decisions that are in the best interest of all Bahamians and the country’s economy will emerge stronger as a result.