Patterson: VAT may increase suffering
Christian Council head says economy too fragile for new tax
BY KRYSTEL ROLLE-BROWN
Guardian Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
With less than six months before the introduction of value-added tax (VAT), Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Dr. Ranford Patterson warned that it is the wrong time to propose implementing the new tax, as he believes it would likely spawn more social ills if the economy doesn’t improve in the coming months.
Patterson said while the BCC generally supports the government’s efforts toward tax reform, the timing of its introduction could cause more problems.
Patterson said he also has some reservations about the rate of the tax.
“No government can operate without tax reform,” he said. “But I believe this is a [bad] time to pose any new tax on the Bahamian people. But we understand that there is a need to tax reform.
“I believe that the lower income people in our country are going to suffer even more as a result of the implementation of VAT. I think there needs to be a balance of the time and the rate. Everything needs to be at the right time.
“I don’t think we are at the right time. There are too many people who are out of a job. There are too many people who don’t have the basic necessities.”
Asked if he believes that January would be better, he said, “If the economy remains the way it is, then the answer is no”.
“I think we’ll see more social ills. Things will get much worse if the economy doesn’t change soon.”
The government intends to bring the VAT legislation to the House of Assembly before the end of this month, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis confirmed earlier this week.
He said the education campaign will pick up in earnest following the tabling of that bill. He also suggested that the education process will help ease some of the fear that the new tax has caused.
But Patterson said he isn’t sure about that.
“Everybody is weary of it,” he said.
“Everybody is afraid of the fact that what I can buy for a dollar today, it won’t be valued for a dollar tomorrow. That’s a challenge.”
He said the government must “be careful how we implement these taxes and when we implement them”.
Prime Minister Perry Christie recently expressed confidence that the economy would improve over the next six months.
He told reporters earlier this month that he is “excited” about the country’s future prospects.
July 12, 2014