Sunday, December 1, 2013

Viable alternatives to Value Added Tax (VAT) ...and ways to increase revenue ...and ultimately ...reduce The Bahamas debt

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) on, "The VAT Story"


While the Bahamian people stare down the barrel of the government’s proposed Value Added Tax (VAT) due to be implemented in July 2014 we remain uncertain of what to expect will come out of that barrel – we just know it won’t be good.

Aiding in the confusion we feel as the date rapidly approaches is the inconsistent statements of the Prime Minister who one moment speaks of the inevitability of VAT and the next seems to plead for an alternative from the business community. More recently the Prime Minister blames the financial mess left behind by the FNM for forcing his hand to introduce a tax that he said he took the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to task twice over pressure to implement.

The Prime Minister’s statements in reaction to public statements of former PLP Cabinet Minister George Smith and more recently former Central Bank Governor James Smith have only served to cement the fact that our country has no direction.

A week after James Smith, now chairman of CFAL and a consultant to the Ministry of Finance, said that he is a proponent of VAT but believes a lower rate would satisfy international credit ratings agencies and be more palatable for the private sector, the Prime Minister agrees and says he clearly must take Mr. Smith’s advice into consideration. We know from the Prime Minister’s comments last week that he is concerned for his and his party’s political future as he doesn’t want “young men like Halkitis and Khaalis Rolle sitting in the meeting with me to lose an election because I don’t question you (IMF) on what you’re telling me I should do?” Do they really “Believe in Bahamians”?

A government who truly cared about Bahamians would have first come to the Bahamian business community and sought a solution before trying to ram a tax down the throats of Bahamians despite knowing the inflation and economic regress it has caused in many other Caribbean nations.

The Democratic National Alliance has, over the past months proposed viable alternatives to VAT and ways to increase revenue and ultimately reduce debt. We believe it is more than capable of being accomplished and we have outlined these suggestions in the DNA’s Three Point Plan to Prosperity.

The DNA believes firstly: We can achieve efficient government operation, consistent of proper collection of existing taxes, constraining the growth of government spending and limiting government borrowing to a percentage of revenue, introduction of a national procurement agency, privatization of Water & Sewage, Bahamas Electrical Corporation, Bahamasair, implement a proper Freedom of Information Act, enforcement of the Public Disclosures Act, introduction of Whistle Blowers Act and elimination of cronyism projects and perks.

The DNA believes secondly: We have tax alternatives, consistent of implementation of goods & service tax between 5% and 7% levied at point of sale, reduction of duties to 10%, reduction of government subsidies to tourism related by 50%, land tax above certain nonperforming acreage and withholding tax applied to education.

The DNA believes thirdly: We can grow the economy by making the business community successful, through a reduction in cost of electricity (14c per KWH in power generation 3c per KWH in distribution), reduction in the prime rate by 50%, reduce cost of capital through structured elimination of exchange controls, diversification of the Bahamian economy, incentives to the small business sector, empowering working Bahamians through increasing the minimum wage to $7 per hour and making available ownership of crown land through a National Land Bureau.

We believe that through consultation with the public and private sector together with measured and decisive leadership we can not only turn the economy around and reduce the debt but create an economy that will bring prosperity to more Bahamians. After all, isn’t that what good governance is about – making life better for Bahamians?

Branville McCartney
December 1, 2013