Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ramp-up campaign against value-added tax (VAT) in 2014

Anti-VAT group plans to ‘go grassroots’ in 2014

Guardian Business Reporter

Come 2014, a local advocacy group plans to ramp up its campaign against value-added tax (VAT).

Since creating Citizens for a Better Bahamas last month, its founder, Tamara Van Breugel, revealed to Guardian Business that its following is growing, with more than 1,500 contacts on its Facebook page to date.  But plans to mobilize the campaign to the streets is set begin in January, beginning with grassroots communities.

She said it is all in an effort to bring awareness to Bahamians everywhere so they can be informed about this issue that will impact the country’s economy.

“It’s been really encouraging because for the most part, we have been focusing on the social media part of our campaign,” she said.

“But we have been getting a lot of positive responses throughout the community so far and I think that a lot of people are concerned about VAT.

“We’re looking to get into grassroots communities, letting young people, and people that aren’t usually in contact with media, access this information so that they can have an awareness of what’s going on.”

In its push for a unified, engaged and informed citizenry, Van Bruegel said VAT would not be the only issue that the group will discuss, although it was the catalyst for starting the group.  Citizens for a Better Bahamas has also started a petition that has been directed to parliamentarians, so that constituents can voice their concerns on the matter.

“We believe that’s the missing component in the government’s structure and that’s the key to creating good governance,” she said to Guardian Business.

“We do have a petition that is directed to each of the 38 members of Parliament.  That is a part of our on-the-ground campaign, getting people aware of the petition and then to sign it.  This is so they can have meaningful dialogue with their elected members.”

Citizens for a Better Bahamas is a non-partisan advocacy group.

The government has proposed to implement a general VAT rate of 15 percent on July 1, 2014 while the hotel sector will be subject to a lower rate of 10 percent.

Officials at the Ministry of Finance estimate that VAT can generate approximately $200 million in revenue in the first year alone, which the government has suggested is key to reducing national debt levels.

Deember 30, 2013