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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Obama’s unfulfilled Gitmo promise

Five years after his election, the U.S. President has not closed the prison on the illegally held Guantánamo Naval Base

By Manuel E. Yepe

THE failure to fulfill electoral promises made by candidates who win U.S. presidential elections is not news. In fact, this is corroborated by the corporate press in that nation.
However, in the case of current President Barack Obama – whose triumph had much to do with the relatively daring promises which allowed him to overcome the odds against him, given his ethnic and social origins and age, among other aspects – his failure to meet his promises has placed him in a position which could prove damaging to the Democratic Party in the 2016 elections.
One glaringly evident case little mentioned in the media is that, during his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama described the case of Gitmo (as the illegally naval base is identified in the United States) as “a sad chapter in American history,” and promised that, if he were to be elected, the base would closed in 2009.
Shortly after his election, the new president reiterated his promise to close the base in an ABC television interview.
However, in November 2009, Obama was forced to acknowledge that it was not possible to set a specific date for the closure, while announcing that it would most likely occur at some undetermined point in 2009.
On December 15, 2009, a presidential memorandum issued by Obama ordered the closing of the prison camp and the transfer of the detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Shortly afterward, in a letter to Congressman Frank Wolf, who was making every effort to avoid the transfer of the Guantánamo detainees to Thomson, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that such a move would violate legal prohibitions which he was determined to uphold.
And thus this vacillation has continued to date, in a clear demonstration of the President’s unwillingness to confront the issue, despite popular will as expressed in the elections.
It should be noted that there has been no media reference in recent history to the fact that the base’s very existence is indefensible and that a genuine solution must include, as a principal step, the return to Cuba of this occupied territory.
During a workshop with Cuban experts on the 110-year occupation of Guantánamo by the United States, which took place recently in Havana, Jonathan Hansen, associate professor at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, affirmed that few in the United States acknowledge that the base must be returned to Cuba, and that the problem is how to make this matter an issue for discussion.
The United States occupies this portion of Cuban territory in virtue of an unjust agreement of indefinite duration imposed on Cuba in February 1903, as one of the addendums to the Platt Amendment, introduced as an appendix to the Constitution of the nascent Cuban Republic through pressure from Washington.
Sooner or later, Guantánamo must disappear and this ignominious enclave will remain as one more sad page in the history of U.S. imperialism.
November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

If The Bahamas government cannot collect what is now owing will it supervise and collect the taxes from Value Added Tax (VAT)?

Warning On Vat From Barbados

Tribune242 Editorial
Nassau, The Bahamas

OVER the weekend, Elcott Coleby, deputy director of Bahamas Information Services, sent a release to the press to announce the downgrade by Standard & Poor of Barbados’ financial rating – the second in four months. Barbados is listed in tenth place as one of the world’s most heavily indebted countries. From a rating of BB+ it has been dropped to BB-.

“The downgrade reflects the mounting external pressures associated with a persistent current account deficit and external financing challenges, as well as the ongoing high fiscal deficit largely because of a substantial fall in government revenues as a result of the weak economy,” the agency said.

“In reacting to the news,” according to the Barbados press release, the “former president of the Economic Society, Ryan Straughn, said the latest rating has not come as a surprise and suggested that the writing had been on the wall for some time since Government did not go ahead with the expenditure cuts announced by the Minister of Finance in the August 2013 Budget.”

But what interested us even more was Mr Coleby’s warning at the top of the Barbados release. “This,” wrote Mr Coleby, “is where the Bahamas could be headed if it fails to act — sooner than later. So far, the Bahamas government has successfully staved off another downgrade in 12 months — thanks to its fiscal consolidation plan. Barbados was not so lucky.”

Nor will the Bahamas be, if it does not get its reckless spending under control.

However, if this hint from NIB is a message from government to hasten the pace for the introduction of VAT, it should slow down and give the matter more thought. It’s a warning for caution. VAT was introduced in Barbados on January 1, 1997, at the standard rate of 15 per cent. However, Barbados took its time investigating and testing before it took the plunge. Nevertheless, after 16 years, VAT has obviously not been the perfect solution. Barbados still does not have its spending under control and the very event that VAT was meant to avoid has happened — another S&P downgrade. Although several Caribbean countries have VAT, it is interesting to note that Grenada experimented with it in 1980, but quickly abolished it. It would be interesting to know why.

On October 1st, the Barbados government – to bolster its failing domestic tourism – reduced the VAT rate on “hotel accommodation” to 7.5 per cent, extending it to the Direct Tourism Service, which had been 17.5 per cent.

It was noted in an article posted by “David” on August 25 that July 2013 recorded Barbados’ “lowest number of long stay visitor arrivals across the last 11 years in any same month.” The land-based arrivals for the same year in October and November was examined and it was discovered that “both again, alarmingly recorded their lowest comparable monthly figures for the past decade”.

In another article, which noted that Barbados, although it had “enjoyed good credit ratings in days of old because of bullish tourism and international business products,” no longer did so because of the general world picture.

It highlighted several problems that needed urgent attention in view of the international down grading. Bahamians should take note of at least one of them, because, with a few amendments here and there, it is a serious problem in the Bahamas.

“It is apparent,” said the Barbadian writer, “that a few of the statutory bodies have grown to be financial albatrosses around the necks of taxpayers. Barbadians know too well those statutory bodies which political parties ‘pad’ to guard party support. Now that money has dried up this strategy of protecting the party faithful has been exposed for what it is, an unsustainable practice. Deal with it!”

Here in the Bahamas after last year’s election Bahamians saw this in high gear as large sums were spent on clearing land in the name of Urban Renewal. It was claimed that it was part of a plan to clear bushy areas that attracted crime. There was a hue and cry when these “landscapers” went on the land turning areas into arid waste and even trespassing on private property. At the end of this unconscionable waste of public money, nature laughed in the face of the politicians and in a few months the bush, in which the criminals allegedly hid, returned — but the money had already been wasted.

Then there was the flushing out of certain areas of the civil service to make room for party faithful. It was claimed that the price paid for this was a return to inefficiency.

Of course, there is also the non-collection of taxes. The question being asked is if this government cannot collect what is now owing, how will it supervise and collect the taxes from VAT.

Of course, an item that is now of paramount concern to the public – especially in these tight economic times — is the cost of official travel by government ministers at public expense. Former National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest in a page 1 article today has urged Prime Minister Christie to give a financial accounting of his delegation’s trip to CHOGM in Sri Lanka, and the side trips to Rome and London. We shall comment on this in this column tomorrow.

However, the point that rankles Bahamians is government’s apparent reluctance to cut unnecessary spending. Bahamians resent having to be taxed to support the status quo. Unless government sets an example, Bahamians will grumble. This is the frequent complaint that we hear within the ranks of the unions.

November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Bahamas government should not bend to public pressure over value-added tax (VAT) ...says Bahamian Attorney, Wayne Munroe

Munroe: Govt should push ahead with VAT

Guardian Senior Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas -

Attorney Wayne Munroe said the government should not bend to public pressure over value-added tax (VAT).

The Christie administration has been criticized for not yet releasing the VAT legislation and regulations with the proposed implementation date eight months away.  The government’s VAT public education program has also come under fire.

However, Munroe said these issues do not mean the government should delay or abandon the tax.

“They just need to get it done, all this nonsense about educating the public about tax, [were] any of us educated about the business license or real property tax or customs duties?

“So [why] suddenly the great need to educate us over VAT?  The people who have to collect it, pay it and administer the system must be told and must make themselves aware of what they need to know and that’s it.”

Munroe also suggested that it might be strategic for the government to delay the release of the VAT legislation and regulations, so people have less time to figure out how to circumvent payment.

“The government’s objective is to maximize revenue collection.  If you give me a month with a bill, I will probably be able to show deficiencies that would be able to beneficially impact my client and adversely impact government revenue collection.

“So there is nothing unusual about not circulating a revenue statute in advance and anyone with sense would know that.  The less time I have with it, the more time you have before I find out a clever way out of it.

The new VAT regime proposed by the government would allow the state to impose widespread penalties on those who fail to comply with the new act and its regulations, including heavy fines, shutting businesses down, publicly naming and shaming, the seizure of goods and the auctioning off of assets and even jail time.

The new regime proposes to allow the Central Revenue Agency (CRA), which the government is setting up to regulate and collect VAT, to demand details of assets from banking institutions, garnish money owed to registrants by others and restrict access to travel for those who owe outstanding taxes.

Under the new tax system, delinquent taxpayers can also be restricted from travel until outstanding taxes are settled.

Munroe questioned the rationale of this provision and said it should not be included in the final draft of the VAT legislation.

“You can’t restrict my movement because I owe the government money, because what does one have to do with the other?

“Does that mean poor people can’t move about?  Now, the U.S. for instance can refuse you entry into their country if you owe people money, but that’s because you have no right of entry into the U.S. or any other country other than your own.

“I can’t see them seriously talking about restricting your movement because you owe taxes.”

The government plans to roll out VAT on July 1, 2014 at a rate of 15 percent in the wide majority of cases.

However, Prime Minister Perry Christie has said he reserves the right to delay the implementation date.

VAT is expected to add an additional $200 million in revenue in the first year of implementation, officials estimate.

November 25, 2013


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chinese solutions

• Series of measures to advance reforms approved by the
18th Communist Party Central Committee third plenum

By Claudia Fonseca Sosa

CHINA continues to surprise. The government of the nation which, in the not so distant future, could displace the United States as the first economy in the world has announced a new reform package which seeks to reorient its growth model toward internal consumption and limit the country’s dependence on external markets.

In 1979, a process of socioeconomic transformations designed to unleash the country’s productive forces began. The development model implemented was based on stimulating foreign investment and exports, with excellent results sustained over the years, which allowed it to accumulate a surplus of billions of dollars.

The Chinese economy was also able to maneuver in order to survive the explosion of the international financial bubble in 2008.

However, the Asian giant now has a dream: to double the gross domestic product and per capita income by 2020, comparing these indicators with those attained in 2010 when the country grew by 10.3%. For that, President Xi Jinping has stated that the country must make strategic readjustments to its economic structure and increase efficiency in state supervision mechanisms.

The government aspires to the entire population of 1.3 billion Chinese equitably enjoying the benefits of development and the measures announced by the 18th Communist Party Central Committee in its recent third plenum are directed toward this goal.

"The fundamental objective of the reforms approved is to improve and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics and to move forward with the modernization of the system and the capacities of the country’s government," states a communiqué read in the event’s closing session.

The document places emphasis on the need "to establish an appropriate relationship between the government and the market" in order to grant the latter more decisive participation in the assignation of resources."

According to the official press, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is to create fair, open and transparent market regulations, as well as to improve the mechanism of market prices so that businesses can operate in an independent manner.

At the same time, China is to undertake fiscal reforms, lower the threshold of foreign investment, intensify the development of free trade areas and increase the opening of interior, coastal and border areas, with a view to creating a new kind of relationship between industry and agriculture.

Other measures approved will allow small farmers to enjoy more property over land and production means, establish a sustainable social security system, create new urban-rural relations in order to solve difficulties arising from large waves of internal migration, and increase the population’s standard of living in terms of access to health and education services.

Also announced was a modification of the family planning policy, taking into account demographic changes in the country with the highest number of inhabitants in the world – and the oldest – to satisfy the desire of many families to have more than one child, which has been the established limit.

The communiqué also announced the decision to direct more resources to the army and to promote scientific and ecological development.

But what is the nature of these reforms?

As Cuban analyst Eduardo Regalado, at the International Political Research Center, explained to Granma, given the financial crisis in its principal markets (Europe and the United States), the Chinese leadership has been obliged to reduce its dependency on foreign capital and strengthen the internal market, one of the largest in the world.

Chinese products which, prior to the crisis, sold very well given that they were cheaper, began to be prejudiced by the competition of European and U.S. products (in other words, from the same countries to which they sold them). At the same time, Chinese acquisitive power has increased and this raises the question of why sell to others if the same goods can be purchased in China.

For Regalado, these adjustment measures seek to further raise the population’s standard of living and to close the gap in development between rural and urban areas. They would also provide a solution to the country’s internal difficulties, which have occurred as a consequence of development itself, such as environmental contamination, migration from rural areas to cities, among others.

Moreover, an important transformation within the projections of Chinese leaders is to transition from a rapid growth model - with the country growing as more factories open - to a model of intensive growth, in which science and technology play a significant role in production processes, a model which, at the same time, is to address ecological issues and depends less on external markets.

November 22, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Yes, The Bahamas is in a serious debt position ...but the present government has a nerve to ask the Bahamian people for more tax money support the continuation of the manner in which our past taxes have been wasted

Government Must Be Held Accountable For Public Spending

Tribune 242 Editorial
Nassau, The Bahamas:

SINCE THIS government has come on the scene, it has stumbled from one sink hole into another. Nothing seems to be going right, because there is no planning, no co-ordination, and, as we have said before, each cabinet minister seems to have his own agenda and his own game plan.

Several months ago, when it was suggested that Prime Minister Perry Christie should reshuffle his cabinet, he is quoted as having said words to the effect that the timing was not right as there were cabinet members who had agendas that they wanted to complete. If there were cohesion in the Christie government, the only agenda to be completed would be government’s agenda, and anyone not at one with that agenda would be shuffled out. This goes to the very core of what is wrong with this administration. There is no strong leader who can keep his colleagues following the same road map.

They don’t even seem to speak the same language. For example, with all the negative feedback, Mr Christie seems open to the idea of exploring new avenues to raise taxes, provided businessmen can suggest alternatives to VAT. Despite this, State Minister of Finance Michael Halkitis has said that there are no plans to postpone the July 1, 2014, date for the implementation of VAT. If there are no plans, then why should the Prime Minister ask for suggestions to find a new, less complicated way to raise taxes and drop VAT?

About the only subject on everyone’s lips today is VAT. And the more government spokesmen try to explain it the muddier the waters become. As a matter of fact, these spokespersons don’t seem to fully understand it themselves, leaving Bahamians at the end of their question-and-answer sessions more perplexed and less confident than before. As a result, public anger and confusion has grown. Grown to the point that at the end of the day the country might see a vocal group of young people ban together to hold government’s toes to the fire.

The Insight feature in today’s Tribune is a speech given by a young mother, who is also a branch manager of a local bank.

Tamara van Breugel, because of the lack of information coming from government, went on her own journey of education and was alarmed by what she discovered. Along the way, she also found many intelligent, like-minded young Bahamians who want to turn a new leaf in our history books and build a new Bahamas. They are fed up with the underhanded shenanigans that have been going on for far too long among what old Bahamians used to call their “representers”. So our readers should be on the watch for Citizens for a Better Bahamas. We predict that Mrs van Breugel’s speech is the launch of a vocal, enthusiastic and, we hope, more responsible Bahamian.

As we have said in this column before, for a government promising 10,000 jobs almost as soon as it became the government, the suggestion of VAT was suicidal. True, government has to get itself out of debt not only to prevent its credit rating from being downgraded, but to become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WHO). Among the many rules and regulations that have to be followed is that government will have to drop its tariffs on imported goods so that the goods of WHO members can enter the country more easily. This means that government will have to find a substitute to the present Customs duties. However, it does not mean that VAT is the answer. If government can’t police the collection of Customs duties now, it will never be able to afford enough inspectors to supervise VAT. A simple sales tax would seem the more sensible route.

Today, we publish a letter from a concerned Bahamian who vowed he would refuse to open his books to any government inspector, until government opened “their” books for public inspection. He was on the right path, but he made one mistake. Government’s books are not “their” books. These books belong to every taxpaying Bahamian. We have a right to know how our money is being spent. We have a right to demand that those books be opened for inspection.

This government started immediately on its grand shuffle among government employees, moving competent persons from their jobs, and replacing them with less competent party supporters. Not only does that create a state of inefficiency in a department, but it is a costly exercise. The clearing of land in the so-called Urban Renewal project was a scandalous waste of public funds. The money used was public money — our money — and we, the people have a right to know. Not only did workers trespass on private property, but the money handed out, regardless of the work to be done, warrants a public inquiry. A government representative is duty bound to prudently administer public funds — administer it as if it were his own. None of that prudence was shown in the Urban Renewal land clearance plan, for example — it was just pay-back election time. The public should demand an accounting of this scandal.

During this belt-tightening time, all of these overseas trips should he scaled down. Certainly, the public has a right to know the cost of every one of them, right down to the last glass of champagne. Remember, this is the public’s money that is being so liberally spent – while the public debt steadily rises.

Mrs van Breugel points out that in the auditor general’s 2010/2011 report, he discovered that:

• 5,980 cargo manifests had not been presented to Bahamas Customs for clearance;

• $95 million in real property taxes went uncollected, taking the total sum outstanding to $541.886 million;

• $302,866 of unpaid fuel from The Ministry of Works.

In the 2014/2015 fiscal budget, subsidies have been allocated as follows:

• $20 million to subsidise Bahamasair;

• $20 million in subsidies to Water and Sewerage;

• $7 million to the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation.

And so the horror story of how the people’s money is being misspent continues.

Our finances would not be in such a sorry state if we had better managers in charge, and a government that did not believe that it can play Santa Claus with other people’s money.

Yes, the Bahamas is in a serious debt position, but this government has a nerve to ask the Bahamian people for more tax money to support the continuation of the manner in which our past taxes have been wasted.

November 18, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

A note to Hubert Minnis on value-added tax (VAT) in The Bahamas ...and how we got there

VAT How we got here

A note to Hubert Minnis

Guardian News Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas

Amid what appears to be a growing public tide against the July 1, 2014 implementation of value-added tax (VAT), Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has finally released a position on this contentious issue.

It came as pressure grew within his party for the official opposition to make a clear statement on what would be the most dramatic shift in tax policy in decades.

The statement Minnis came up with is stunningly shallow. It lacks intellectual rigor and shows a startling lack of vision and leadership, all of which we desperately need at this stage of our development.

That is surprising in the sense that he should have access to the facts and to sound advice from qualified and knowledgeable people within his own party.

Given how long it took him to release a statement, he should have had adequate time to formulate a more reasoned position that could be taken seriously and add value to the ongoing discussion on tax reform.

But given his record on matters of serious import (for example, multiple positions on gambling), no one should be surprised that his sole approach is to attack the government on its plans without presenting a well thought out contribution to this growing debate with accompanying proposed policy alternatives.

It seems once again that the opposition leader has gauged the direction of the wind and formulated his position based on the mood of the country. But be mindful that his position could shift again with any sudden temperature change or change to the national tone.

Minnis, who 18 months ago sat as a minister of government, called on the current administration to immediately “come clean to the people, and to explain, precisely and clearly what the circumstances are which have prompted this sudden lurch towards the imposition of VAT”.

It is worrying that the official opposition leader does not know the answer to this question.

Minnis is operating as someone who only entered the political arena in May 2012, distancing himself from the actions of the former administration.

He pretends instead to be blind to the fiscal circumstances of the day, but more importantly to the fiscal realities that existed while he was a minister of government, and the decisions taken to address those realities.

While no one should excoriate the FNM leader for setting along his own path and defining his own leadership style, he and his party are saddled with their record in office.

They cannot run from the decisions taken by the FNM administration — the good and the bad ones.

If as opposition leader Minnis does not know what the circumstances are that have prompted this “sudden lurch towards the imposition of VAT”, he might be ignoring easily available facts.

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts has gone as far as saying Minnis might be suffering a case of memory loss.

“How else [do you] explain his scolding for a debt crisis created by his own party?” Roberts asked.

“Or was Dr. Minnis asleep at the Cabinet table when his government approved, borrowed and spent over $2 billion in five years, running up the national debt and pushing the country into this current fiscal dilemma?”

If Minnis is not sure how we got to where we are, he might find it useful to do a bit of research and examine the facts of the country’s debt levels.

This might jog his memory.

In August 2011 when the international credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the Bahamian economy from stable to negative, it pointed to the significant run up in government debt levels in recent years and the country’s limited growth prospects.

Moody’s noted that debt rose steadily between 2000 and 2008, but over 40 percent of the increase occurred between 2009 and 2011.

Government debt at the end of June 2011 was estimated at $3.5 billion. It has continued to grow. It is projected to be $4.9 billion when the government implements VAT next July.

This is unsustainable. We are in crisis.

Had the Free National Movement been re-elected to office last year, we would have been facing the same urgent need to tackle our debt, and reform our narrow and inefficient tax system.


Before Minnis twists himself into an impossible situation and puts his credibility on the line, perhaps he ought to have a discussion with former Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing, his former Cabinet colleague, who helped engineer fiscal policies under the Ingraham administration.

Laing has not hidden the fact that the FNM had planned to implement VAT within “two to three years” if it had won the election last year.

The PLP administration is seeking to do it at the start of its third year in office.

Laing said more recently, “In office, we certainly looked at implementing it and if returned to office would have given it early consideration. However, we would have also given it broad consideration in the context of the wider reforms to our tax system that we were already undertaking.”

So Minnis’ own party was eyeing what he now calls a “regressive” taxation system. He may wish to examine why his party also thought this regressive tax was the best option.

He now warns that VAT would “seriously impair the already weak, uncompetitive and struggling Bahamian economy and harm and diminish the quality of life of every Bahamian”.

Unlike Minnis, Laing does not run away from the fact that the Ingraham administration piled on the debt.

The pace was dizzying.

Laing noted in a speech to the Rotary Club of Freeport in August that, “A country can borrow to cover its deficits for a long time, for decades and decades.

“It can even do so increasing its debt to GDP ratio to extraordinary levels, above 100 percent, but the price to pay for this is reduced ability to afford products and services (education, infrastructure, technology, etc.) that could lend to a more prosperous, efficient and peaceful state.

“Minimizing deficit spending is good government policy, especially in times of economic growth.”

The former government has been sure to provide a clear explanation that the high level of borrowing was needed in the face of a dramatic downturn in the global economy.

That explanation has been arguable, as the PLP accused the Ingraham administration of taking actions to worsen an already bad situation.

While prime minister, Hubert Ingraham had said often in his last term that without borrowing the government would not have been able to do simple things, like pay the salaries of civil servants.

Minnis ought to know that we are now suffering the fallout of sky-high deficits and annual borrowing.

To be clear, the vast majority of the resolutions to borrow were approved in Parliament by the then opposition led by Perry Christie.

Nobody likes to hear of new taxes, and so VAT and tax reform was not a prominent theme of the 2012 general election campaigns.

Upon coming to office, the PLP itself feigned surprise at the state of public finances. With that excuse in hand, it continued to borrow, saying it needed to do so to deal with the problems it inherited from the Ingraham administration.

“The fiscal accounts are in much worse shape than we had expected as we came into office,” Prime Minister Christie told the House not long after the May 2012 general election.

“In our very short time in office, it has become clear to us that the previous administration has, through its actions and fiscal policies, constrained our room to maneuver.”

In May 2013, the Christie administration brought a resolution to the House of Assembly to borrow $465 million to finance the projected revenue shortfall in the 2013/2014 fiscal year.

This added to the $650 million the new government borrowed in its first year.

Government debt as a percentage of GDP is projected at 56.4 percent at the end of 2013/2014.

Christie advised that much of the money the government borrowed last year was required to cover unpaid financial commitments incurred during the Ingraham administration.

“The legacy of high public deficits and spiraling debt burden that we inherited is brutally onerous: almost one out of every $4 in revenue collected by the government must be allocated to pay the interest charges on the public debt and cover the debt repayment,” he said.

“Had we chosen to ignore the grave structural imbalance in the public finances, the debt would have continued to spin out of control.”

This year, the government will spend an estimated $230 million on debt servicing alone.

While it is true that the PLP claimed to have immediate but unrealistic answers to attack our fiscal and economic woes while on the campaign trail, it is not on its own responsible for the current state of affairs.

It matters not at this juncture who is to blame, however. What is required now is reform to arrest the growing unsustainable debt levels.

As stated by Laing in his address to Rotary, “If you want to punish those who drive up cost through waste or bad decisions, then do that at election time, but know that the cost still has to be paid by the citizens.”

Minnis may wish to read and carefully consider that useful and informative address delivered by Laing.

In the speech titled “VAT and its implications for The Bahamas and the Bahamian economy”, Laing pointed out that the government needs cash and it needs it badly.

“We are in discussions about VAT implementation because there is a glaring reality confronting The Bahamas, which is that its income cannot pay for its operations,” Laing explained.

“It has not done so from The Bahamas became an independent nation. We have run deficits and financed those deficits with borrowings since 1974, when we ran a deficit of some $33 million. Incidentally, we had a surplus of about $3 million the year before that, the last such surplus seen on total budget performance.”

Laing continued, “In the wake of the crippling effects of the global recession of 2008 and the strain it put on the revenue of the government, our deficit spending has reached extraordinary levels, which is unsustainable, especially in light of the modest growth seen both in terms of the world’s economy and our domestic economy so dependent on it.

“The government needs money to pay for its expenses, and it needs money badly. That is why VAT is being discussed with the sense of urgency that it is being discussed today. In 1995 when the issue first arose, it was being discussed as a planning function; today it is a practical issue of money.”


The Nassau Guardian last week reported on the government’s proposed VAT bill and regulations. It is not clear when these will be brought to Parliament.

The debate cannot be vibrant and well informed without the official release of what is being proposed.

Minnis has said the PLP should immediately disclose to the Bahamian people the details of any economic studies and analyses either by domestic or international advisors or agencies that have led the government to this proposed course of action.

Many people are indeed awaiting the release of an economic impact study to show specific projections resulting from the VAT implementation, including the projected cost of living impact.

Financial Secretary John Rolle said last week that the cost of living is expected to rise between five and six percent in the first year. There were no details to show how these figures were arrived at, and there were no projections provided for cost of living increases in subsequent years.

This year is almost ended, and the government will have six months to clearly make its case, to seek to calm frayed public nerves, and cause for a smooth implementation of the new tax system.

That is ambitious.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the government is losing, not gaining support from the public on its push toward the implementation of VAT.

Its marketing of the initiative is on shaky ground, and it is only now just starting its public education campaign.

While there is an urgent imperative to act, it appears that on its current track, the new tax system could be off to a chaotic and undesirable start — a difficult birth, as we opined here previously.

What the government needs now is a more community based VAT campaign and a bit more time to get the message out.

It might be in the interest of everyone to push off the implementation date by a few months. It would allow the business community and consumers to better digest the details of VAT.

And perhaps it would give the opposition leader a bit more time to better understand how we got to where we are.

We hope it would also give the government a little more time to present a tax reform package that has buy-in from the opposition.

On a matter this grave, such a buy-in could only be in the national interest.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Zhivargo Laing answers five questions on Value Added Tax (VAT) ...and what it means for The Bahamas, Bahamians, and the Islands' economy

 VAT and its implication for the Bahamas and the Bahamian economy

by: Zhivargo Laing, Former State Minister of Finance

The Bahamas.

... ... My talk today will seek to answer five questions, namely:

1. What is V.A.T.?

2. How does it operate?

3. Why is it an issue in The Bahamas at this time?

4. What is likely to happen?

5. What should happen?

What is a V.A.T.?

Briefly, it is a tax on goods and services at each stage of production and distribution. As its name implies, it is a tax on each increase in value as goods and services are produced and distributed.

More specifically, and here I have the European Unionâ s website to thank for what I regard as a succinct set of specifics, a Value Added Tax is:

• Charged on wide range of goods and services, commercial activities;

• A consumption tax because the final consumer ultimately pays the tax; we will get into this a little bit more later;

• Not a charge on businesses, which will become clear as we move along;

• Charged as a percentage of price, which means that the actual tax burden is visible at each stage in the production and distribution chain.

• Collected in pieces, through an invoice credit payback system or by partial payments where taxable persons (i.e., VAT-registered businesses) deduct from the VAT they have collected the amount of tax they have paid to other taxable persons on purchases for their business activities, which make it neutral or places no charge on businesses, as I alluded to earlier.

• Paid to the government by the seller of the goods, who is the â taxable person,⠝ but it is actually paid by the buyer to the seller as part of the price. It is thus an indirect tax.

You would have heard me mention â taxable person⠝ several, in which case I am referring to any individual, partnership, company or trading entity that supplies taxable goods and services as a business. In many instances, however, if that business has an annual turnover that is less than a certain minimum, a VAT is not levied on its sales, it is VAT exempt.

Generally speaking, there is no VAT charged on exported goods since it is already paid on the inputs of the good for export. However, VAT is paid on imported goods as means of ensuring that they do not have a price advantage over goods produced locally.

The Bahamas, of course, is a predominantly service based economy; not manufacturing based economy. So, if implemented, a VAT would be applied on many services. So the lawyer, doctor, electrician, carpenter, etc. might all be subject to a VAT on their services. Here again though, it is not their businesses that will be ultimately charged if they had to pay a VAT in the course of producing that service, as they would be able to deduct any VAT paid. It is the consumer who would ultimately pay the VAT, just as is the case with a sales tax. Quite naturally, VAT on services can be fraught with complexities, especially in multi-jurisdictions, where place of supply issues arise; but we need not bother with that here.

Typically, there are a range of services that may be exempt from VAT, including financial services, insurance, health services, social services, education, cultural, leasing of property and the sale of property services.

In some jurisdictions, there may be several VAT rates, including a standard rate, a reduced and a zero rate. Zero rates might apply to such things as food, books, childrenâ s clothes, public transport, etc.
Some 130 countries apply a VAT and the rates can range between five percent and 25 percent from country to country. There is no VAT charged in the United States of America but President Obama did propose the implementation of one which was met with fierce opposition from conservative politicians in the U.S. In the Caribbean countries that have a VAT include Barbados (17.5), Guyana (16 percent) Saint Kitts and Nevis (17 percent) and Trinidad and Tobago (15 percent).

Why have so many countries adopted the VAT, why are so many more considering it and why VAT over sales tax? There are a number of reasons, including the fact:

• Governments needed more revenue which was not being supplied by their predominantly income and sales tax systems;

• Governments found that their tax bases needed to be broadened in order to collect greater revenue; and

• Value Added Tax broadens that base while producing a neutral tax for businesses but a self-policing system through the invoice credit payback system that a sales tax could not provide;
Time does not permit me to get into an extensive discussion on the arguments given by some against a VAT. However, briefly stated, they include the following:

• It is complicated to implement, especially in a service based economy; this notwithstanding, it is in most territories in the world and others are seeking to implement;

• It is regressive, as is the sales tax and customs duty, and IT IS;

• Problems for businesses in adapting to VAT that include time, paperwork, difficulty reclaiming funds and issues with how the VAT applies to unique supplies.

Why is VAT being considered today?

It has been known for some time that The Bahamas could not indefinitely fund the State enterprise with its existing tax sources. Our economy is, conservatively speaking, about 70 percent services and 30 percent goods, yet the Government raises about 70 percent of its revenue from 30 percent of the economy. Some 40 percent plus of Government revenue comes from taxing imports into the country, that is goods brought into the country from overseas.

A growing state with increasing cost of operations cannot continue to look to the narrowest segment of its economy to pay for the bulk of the cost. This was combined with the growing recognition that you cannot run deficits indefinitely without at some point paying a high price. Thus the need arose to look for alternative sources of funding. This effort was launched in 1995 when the Government asked the International Monetary Fund to explore the issue with it.

Another consideration was the fact that with the creation of the World Trade Organization, to which every Caribbean country belonged having joined at the time of the creation of the organization in 1995, would eventually mean The Bahamas had to look at reducing its dependence on customs duty for revenue if it hoped to belong to that international trading system on day. Talks of a Free Trade Area of the Americas to be negotiated also played a role in this consideration.

Study launched into new tax opportunities, namely sales tax and VAT because of the challenge of imposing income tax in our offshore finance environment that was extremely sensitive to such issues.
Many years of inquiry by IMF and IDB and Ministry of Finance has taken place but a concrete written first proposal was developed in 2008/9. This technical proposal is the basis of the existing proposal.

It is a live issue today because in the wake of the Great Recession and its impact on The Bahamasâ fiscal position, the imperative for increased revenue is even greater.

The Government needs cash and it needs it badly. The proposition on the table is to produce a VAT by July 2014, next year.

What is likely to happen?

One of two things is likely to happen: (i) delay of the proposed implementation date and uncertainty as to a future date; or (ii) implementation within proposal date with numerous headaches in doing so. We could all be surprised and have a painless implementation of the VAT.

What Should Happen?

The Value Added Tax proposition on the table today is, for the most part, a technocratic proposal. It does not have the benefit of broad academic consideration or input.

It also lacks commercial consideration, as serious study, thought and consideration by the entrepreneurial community of The Bahamas, including the professional supportive communities of accountants, lawyers, economists and financial experts is lacking.

The proposal does not have, as far as I can assess, a current economic impact study to form the basis of any genuine analysis of revenue need medium to long term or spending and fiscal targets medium to long term.

Such a study would also have concluded what, for the medium to the long term, should be the appropriate tax system for The Bahamas, meaning that we should determine what taxes should exist in the modern Bahamas and which should be eliminated. Doing this would mean that we have a vision for the economic and commercial life of The Bahamas and what fiscal system would best support the realization of that vision.

It certainly has not yet been given an organized public education process and deliberation. This means that the community it remains largely an uncertainty to most of the public.

The proposal also lacks important details, especially as it relates to its implementation, though I do believe that the rudiments for such details were emerging as a consequence of certain legislative, administrative and technological reforms undertaken over the last six years and some are alluded to in the paper itself.

Tourism and financial services, along with their ancillary supportive services, account for more than 60 percent of our economy. Applying a VAT to these internationally competitive sectors with their major impact on our economy must be approached with caution. It is not clear whether the proposal on the table has carefully analyzed this situation and therefore has accounted for the implications of the VAT to them and the economy as a whole.

What we know about the VAT proposal from a white paper on tax reform issued on 13 February of this year include the following:

The Government's objectives are:

• To secure an adequate revenue base in support of modern governance;

• To establish a tax structure that promotes economic efficiency and stronger economic growth; and

• To make the tax system more equitable.

These are laudable objectives but the implementation of a VAT alone, even when combined with a congruent reduction in customs duty will not achieve these objectives. Reform of the tax system itself that results in a structure supportive of these objectives is necessary.

The aim is to introduce the VAT on 1 July 2014 at a rate of 15 percent.

The Government should rethink this.

Firstly, I think that the date is not doable, certainly not to achieve the best results. However, more importantly, I believe that we should step back and see the tax reform exercise more fundamentally and profoundly.

Many of the considerations that drove us to look at our tax system with jaundiced eyes have faded. In particular, our offshore finance centre has seen revolutionary changes in the international regulatory environment in which it operates.

The timidity that it once had to issues of no or low taxes and even secrecy has matured in some ways. We can, as a mature nation, take account of our needs as a state and the cost of financing those needs, and consider our vision for a dynamic, robust and growing economy and the commercial opportunities that exist to realize that vision, and develop a tax structure that suits us.

In other words, rather than be driven, lets drive our reform to do for us what we wish to do for ourselves within the context of the global environment in which we exist and are likely to exist. We should aim for reforms and should do them sooner rather than later but let us do our best and most considered reforms, so that we can look back at them and be proud of what we did for us.

There will be a reducing of both import duties and excise tax rates and elimination of the business license tax (but require a minimal annual business license fee) and the elimination of hotel occupancy taxes (which will be substituted with VAT). As a part of a considered tax reform process, these could have merits but cannot be fully known without that more complete picture in place.

There will be a limit to become a VAT Registrant of $50,000 turnover per annum, meaning that about 3,798 businesses will qualify as VAT Registrants. At this rate, the revenue potential to the Government will be around $200 million. If we return to pre-2008 GFS deficits, this new revenue could totally eliminate our deficit, if the government enjoys levels of growth seen in that period and controls increase in spending, which, I admit is a tall order for governments. If we maintain post-2008 GFS deficits, this new revenue will still mean GFS deficits of $300 - $400 million, if all else remains equal; and that would not be sustainable or acceptable.

In keeping with what happens in other jurisdictions, it is proposed that financial services, agriculture and fisheries, social& community services, health and education and leases on land and residential buildings will all be tax exempt sectors. Nothing unusual there!

There are other details in the paper about the administrative procedures proposed for the VAT, but I do not have the time to comment on them.


Any consideration of new tax implementation in The Bahamas has to take account to legal and economic privileges enjoyed by Freeport through the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. Let me say here that I have looked at the issue and while I do have some initial thoughts, I am not prepared to draw any specific conclusions at this time. However, I will say that just as it ought to be the case with all taxes imposed by the Government, the imposition of a VAT must not proceed without definitively considering its legality and appropriateness for Freeport in light of The Hawksbill Creek Agreement. No one, least of all the economic hard pressed businesses and people of Freeport, and Grand Bahama, need a legal battle or economic issue that pushes their misfortunes further. I will speak to this issue following upon my further study of this matter, however.


We are discussion VAT implementation because there is a glaring reality confronting The Bahamas, which is that its income cannot pay for its operations. It has not done so from The Bahamas became an independent nation. We have run deficits and financed those deficits with borrowings since 1974, when we ran a deficit of some $33 million. Incidentally, we had a surplus of about $3 million the year before that, the last such surplus seen on total budget performance.

In the wake of the crippling effects of the global recession of 2008 and the strain it put on the revenue of the government, our deficit spending has reached extraordinary levels, which is unsustainable, especially in light of the modest growth seen both in terms of the worldâ s economy and our domestic economy so dependent on it. The Government needs money to pay for its expenses and it needs money badly. That is why VAT is being discussed with the sense of urgency that it is being discussed today. In 1995 when the issue first arose, it was being discussed as a planning function; today is itâ s a practical issue of money.

Bahamians must embrace the realities of our present moment and those that relate to our moments going forward. A country is community to which all citizens and residents belong. There is a cost to operating a country. If it is operated efficiently, the cost is not as high as when it is operated inefficiently. However, operated, the cost exists and it must be paid by its citizens through taxes. If the governors drive up the cost through decisions regarded as good or bad, the cost exists and must be paid for by the citizens. If you want to punish those who drive up cost through waste or bad decisions, then do that at election time but know that the cost still has to be paid by the citizens.

A country can borrow to cover its deficits for a long time, for decades and decades. It can even do so increasing its debt to GDP ratio to extraordinary levels, above 100 percent, but the price to pay for this is reduced ability to afford products and services (education, infrastructure, technology, etc.) that could lend to a more prosperous, efficient and peaceful state. Minimizing deficit spending is good government policy, especially in times of economic growth.

Our present tax system is not serving our needs well. It needs to be reformed. We need to eliminate some taxes, to introduce some new taxes and ensure that that at the end of the exercise, we have a tax system that meets the revenue needs of an efficient Bahamian state and supports the ability of the commercial sector of that state to do what it does best, create, grow and conduct business resulting in good jobs and good income. A VAT has the potential to fit into this kind of a scenario.

In office, we certainly looked at implementing it and if returned to office would have given it early consideration. However, we would have also given it broad consideration in the context of the wider reforms to our tax system that we were already undertaking. Consistent with this was changes to our business license regime, real property tax reform efforts, the proposed creation of the Tax Administration Department, reforms to the Tax Administration and Audit Act, a new framework for support small and medium size business through SMEDA, the modernization of customs laws and department, etc. If we step back and approach this issue with the maturity, intelligence and integrity that it deserves, we could do wonders to help The Bahamas realize its greater potential." 

The Freeport News

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Questions for Doctor Hubert Minnis on Value Added Tax (VAT) in The Bahamas

By Dennis Dames
Nassau, The Bahamas:

I have read The Nassau Guardian article today entitled: Minnis blasts government on VAT.  It is my view that the perspectives expressed by the Honourable leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition and my MP, were hypocritical, and amount to rock and bottle politics.

Therefore, I have some questions for Doctor Minnis.  Where were you sir, and what did you have to say in May of 2004 when the government of the day announced the process of preparing a white paper on sweeping tax reforms of The Bahamas’ tax system?

Where were you, and what did you have to say in 2004 when the Value Added Tax (VAT) experts from the UK-based Crown Group were here to perform a review of our tax system?

Where were you, and what did you have to say then, when The Bahamas was signing the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union, between 2002 and 2007.

Where were you, and what did you have to say then, when The Bahamas made application to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001?

Where were you, and what did you have to say when your party chairman, Mr. Darron Cash  recently stated publicly, that the FNM had plans to implement Value Added Tax (VAT) in three years or thirty-six months, if the party had won the 2012 general election?

What is the Free Nation Movement’s (FNM) plan to plug our menacing, destructive and continuous fiscal deficits?

Do you think that The Bahamas need a broader tax base, in order to control our outrageous deficit spending?

When will it be an ideal time for us to get together and address our national budget, revenue and deficits; if this is not the right time?

Are your personal business interests and those of the FNM’s elite base conflicting with your political judgement and commonsense?

I’m looking forward to your reply, Doc.

November 14, 2013

Bahamas Blog International

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

...there is an element of the Bahamian society that views the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) value-added tax (VAT) experience as one that could provide a lesson to The Bahamas' context

TCI rejected ‘rushed’ VAT proposal

Guardian News Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas

Fierce opposition ahead of the planned April 1, 2013 implementation of value-added tax (VAT) in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) led to the United Kingdom pulling back from that position.

Professor Gilbert Morris, who chairs the Turks and Caicos Resort Owners Economic Council, told National Review that TCI residents were primarily concerned with the “rushed” manner in which VAT would have been implemented.

“We never said no to VAT,” explained Morris, a Bahamian.

“We simply said, look there has not been enough time; you’re rushing it through.  If you look across the Caribbean, the record has not been very good.

“The government collects most of the money it says during the first three years, but then the pie begins to shrink and then the government raises the rate.  That has been the Caribbean experience generally with the exception of the Dominican Republic.”

Both the TCI government and opposition had opposed VAT.  In The Bahamas, there is an element of society that views the TCI experience as one that could provide a lesson to our country’s context.

But there is an important difference: It is the Bahamas government, not some foreign power seeking to impose the new tax regime.

Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has called on the government to put off the implementation of VAT, saying it was being rushed.

Recently, the government softened its tone on the issue, with Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Perry Christie saying the July 1, 2014 implementation date is not set in stone.

But the government is clear that its plan is to introduce VAT.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands where Premier Rufus Ewing had campaigned against VAT, the decision to abandon the VAT effort was announced in a letter by Mark Simmonds, the UK’s Minister for the Overseas Territories, in February.

Simmonds wrote:  “It remains Her Majesty’s Government’s (HMG) view that VAT would provide a more stable, fairer and broader based system of revenue for TCI than that which is currently in place.

“The government of TCI has a responsibility to ensure sound finances in the territory. This includes constraining expenditure within the legally binding fiscal framework which is now in place and being able to refinance its debts in 2016 without a further UK government loan guarantee.

“The TCI government will face more difficult choices to ensure stable and sustainable revenues and expenditures in the absence of VAT.

“HMG is clear that we will not accept a return to the dire financial situation in TCI which prevailed before the interim administration.”

The Bahamas is fighting its own dire financial situation, having piled on debt in recent years at a dizzying rate.

Government debt as at June 30, 2014 is projected to be $4.9 billion, compared to $2.4 billion as at July 2007.

Mission creep

Morris believes the lead-up to the planned implementation of VAT in The Bahamas does not leave enough time for it to be done properly.

“The main problem with VAT for countries where there is a tradition of inefficient public service management is mission creep,” explained Morris, who served as an observer during the implementation of VAT in several African nations.

“You start off at one point with one set of costs and because you didn’t pay attention, another long-term set of costs or hidden costs or unforeseen costs, you end up having to absorb those costs and increase the size of what you intended to do, so the mission creeps up on you.  So this is one of the problems.”

The TCI government has put in place a Blue Ribbon Commission on future taxation.  Morris is a member of the commission.

“We have looked at the short-term issues for the government and tried to look at taxes that in the short term could put the government in an effective position,” he said.

Looking at the Bahamian context, Morris added, “The Bahamian people will forgive any government that goes after growth and prosperity for the Bahamian people and makes mistakes.

“What will not be forgiven is a government that overburdens the Bahamian people with taxation, drawn from a wild variety of half studies and statements and impressions and whatever have you, cookie cutter programs for other countries, to force us to become like every other Caribbean country when even in the condition that we’re in, we’re ahead of them.”

Morris said he has experience with the proper implementation of VAT and a bad implementation of VAT on a national scale — a country smaller than The Bahamas and a country 10, 15 times the size of The Bahamas.

“And in each case where it was implemented well, there was a three- to five-year gestation period,” he explained.

“They picked a small area of industry.  They tested it first to see how it worked. They added another area, added another area, did a review after one year, looked at that, talked to the public.

“People got to know about it, and all of a sudden those businesses that were a part of a test and review period they became the central operators, the central businesses that could help the government explain.

“So, rather than depending on some paid person to come in who has a vested interest, in places where it has been done well, they have rolled it out and rolled it out in a small corner of the economy…do it for six months, nine months.

“Clean it up then try it again for three months; do a review then those businesses with the experience join the public education process, and people could look at their own people explaining how it would work for them.”

Morris said what the Bahamas government ought to be doing is growing the economic pie rather than taking a higher proportion of the same economic pie.

“We need to figure out what it takes to run The Bahamas, find the taxes that are on the books, make everybody pay the existing taxes, and then we need to get the minister of finance, the minister of foreign affairs, BAIC (Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation), all these groups, the development bank, get them out of the country on the road drumming up business to expand the economic pie on the basis of a clear and precise 10-year development plan,” he said.

In The Bahamas, there is an estimated $500 million outstanding in property taxes alone.

Morris noted that VAT is infinitely more complex than property taxes.

Referring to the need for greater efforts at economic growth, Morris said, “That’s what governments should be talking about now, not additional taxes, not joining the Word Trade Organization.”

November 11, 2013


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Tax Coalition in The Bahamas praises the Bahamian Prime Minister for being open to pushing back Value-Added Tax’s (VAT) implementation day in The Islands

Tax Coalition Chiefs Praise Pm’S ‘Fantastic’ Vat Remarks

Tribune Business Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas

Co-chairs for the private sector’s Tax Coalition yesterday praised indications that the Prime Minister was open to pushing back Value-Added Tax’s (VAT) implementation day as “fantastic”, warning it was “paramount” that the economy be protected.

Pointing out that the Government would not achieve its revenue-raising objectives if the economy “went to hell in a hand basket”, Robert Myers said he was interpreting Mr Christie’s comments positively, and as a sign that the Government was listening to the private sector’s concerns.

And, picking up on another aspect of the Prime Minister’s remarks, Mr Myers said it was “ludicrous” that a wealthy, ‘informal’ sector in the shape of web shop gaming remained untaxed as the Government moved to increase the burden on legitimate businesses and Bahamian citizens.

Suggesting that the Government could earn as much as $100 million per annum from taxing web shop gaming, Mr Myers added that the Treasury would likely earn another $50 million just by tightening up on the collection of existing taxes.

He especially called on the Government’s new Central Revenue Agency (CRA) to compare bank wire transfers and drafts obtained by companies to finance import purchases with subsequent Customs declarations, to ensure they were not evading due revenue payments. And Business Licence renewals also needed to be better linked with being current on tax payments

With these various initiatives potentially generating another $150 million per annum for the Government, Mr Myers said successful execution would enable it to either lower the VAT rate of possibly avoid introducing the new tax altogether.

The businessman told Tribune Business that the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) Coalition for Responsible Taxation was attempting to “drive one objective; that the economy is protected”.

“No matter what we do with [government] revenue, the primary issue is we protect the economy,” Mr Myers emphasised.

“We understand the need for government revenue, we support the need for something to be done. The question is: What are we going to do, and how, and that we protect and unequivocally ensure the economy is not going to take a hit?

“That’s paramount here. No one wins if the economy goes to hell in a hand basket. That has always been our position.”

Mr Christie’s comments on Wednesday outside the House of Assembly indicate he is prepared to push the July 1, 2014, target deadline back if he feels the Government and private sector are not ready for it.

This is line with the Coalition’s calls for the Government to postpone VAT implementation to a date at least 12 months from the release of the accompanying legislation, regulations, Tariff Schedules and economic models.

The Bahamas is now less than eight months from the July 1 VAT implementation deadline, with none of the above documents having been released.

Still, interpreting the Prime Minister’s comments as a sign the Government was willing to dialogue with the private sector, Mr Myers said of his remarks: “That’s great, that’s fantastic.

“We’re very happy with his comments, and that’s the responsible thing to do. He’s suggesting in that statement that he’s listening to the business community.”

He was backed by fellow Coalition co-chair, Gowon Bowe, he said the Prime Minister’s comments indicated he wanted discussions with both it and the wider business community.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accountant and partner added that while the Government knew it was necessary to change the Bahamas’ fiscal course, it was “equally appreciative that if they get it wrong, it will be catastrophic”.

Pointing out that VAT was one component of fiscal reform, Mr Bowe said all elements had to be bound together in one “complete and comprehensive approach”.

“We have to look at spending, how we manage the debt, our foreign currency reserves and how we manage the reserves at the Central Bank,” Mr Bowe told Tribune Business.

“So it’s a multi-pronged approach. We need to make sure we have it correct.”

Mr Bowe added that he felt Mr Christie would not have made the comments he did without senior officials telling him there were issues that needed to be tackled with respect to VAT.

Mr Christie also suggested that January’s web shop gaming ‘opinion poll’ outcome had deprived the Government of another revenue stream, something Mr Myers agreed with.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous to think we’re going to tax the legal entities of this country, and the citizens of this country, while this sector remains unregulated, open and illegitimate,” he told Tribune Business.

“It’s absurd to think legitimate people pay taxes, and these numbers houses remain unregulated because we’ve not figured out how to regulate them.

“It’s not going anywhere, and we’ve not indicated we have the fortitude to close them down. Let’s stop fooling ourselves. The numbers guys want to be regulated, want to be taxed.”

Mr Myers said Wednesday’s meeting with the Retail Grocers Association, and other Bahamian retailers, went well in terms of introducing them to the Coalition and its objectives and having them elect representatives to it.

Emphasising that the Coalition was not seeking to “override” or take the place of individual industry Associations, Mr Myers said it was intended to act as a “catalyst” and focal point through which they could all air their VAT-related concerns to the Government.

He added that the Coalition was now “imploring” them to submit their industry-specific concerns to it, and provide recommendations on revenues that the Government was “leaving on the table” or were easy to collect.

Suggestions had already come in from the Bahamas Diving Association and Marina Operators, Mr Myers said, adding of the fiscal situation: “We can sit here and cry, but we’re here.

“Now you’re asking for a paramount change in the way we do business, and what’s going to happen in our lives. We made a mistake, and have got one shot to fix this. Let’s fix it. We’ve got to go down fighting.”

November 08, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Bahamas Gaming Board Chairman, Dr. Andre Rollins says that the Bahamian government should tax web shops to boost its revenue ...and introduce value added tax (VAT) at a lower rate than the proposed 15 percent

PLP MP hits out on VAT

Rollins also has Gaming Bill concerns

Guardian Senior Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas

The government should tax web shops to boost its revenue and introduce value added tax (VAT) at a lower rate than the proposed 15 percent, Gaming Board Chairman Dr. Andre Rollins said yesterday.

The Fort Charlotte MP also weighed in on the controversial Gaming Bill and told The Nassau Guardian that “Believe in Bahamians” needs to be more than an election slogan.

Rollins said debate on the modernization of the country’s gaming industry should not be focused on expanding the sector to benefit foreigners while ignoring Bahamian participation.

“While VAT is such a hot topic in our country we have to look at this as an opportunity to at least reduce the amount of apprehension or to whatever extent we can appease the public that is concerned now more than ever about being overtaxed,” he told The Nassau Guardian.

Rollins said taxing web shops would give the government a revenue injection, allowing VAT to be phased in at a low rate over a few years.

“That would allow the transition into VAT, I believe, to be a lot more palatable or manageable for the average Bahamian,” he said.

“We know that VAT is still not considered to be a progressive form of taxation. It’s a regressive tax, maybe not as regressive as a customs duty based regime, but it’s regressive nonetheless.

“If we are in fact in tune with the concerns of the Bahamian people we would know that they are not too pleased with this whole idea of being taxed more, particularly at a time when the economy is still not growing to the extent that we can absorb all of the unemployment.”

The government plans to institute a 15 percent VAT on July 1, 2014 to help close the gap between revenue and expenditure.

In November, Prime Minister Perry Christie told Parliament the government could get $15 million to $20 million in annual taxes if web shops were properly regulated.

The controversial Gaming Bill was tabled in the House of Assembly last month.

The bill would allow casinos to offer mobile and Internet gaming, while preventing web shops from legally doing so, and maintains the status quo, which prevents Bahamians from legal gambling.

Rollins said it “makes no sense” to modernize the gaming industry for foreigners while leaving Bahamians out.

“We cannot as the government fuel a perception that we are enacting legislation that is geared toward bringing modernization to our country but which simultaneously leaves Bahamians behind,” Rollins said.

“Believing in Bahamians must be more than a convenient political slogan. In opposition you have the luxury of being elected on your promises.  As the government, however, you are judged by your actions. This debate is about much more than gaming; it is about maintaining our philosophical credibility as a government that says it believes in Bahamians.”

Rollins said if the issue of Bahamians gambling is not dealt with during the debate on the Gaming Bill, he doubts it would happen during this term.

“I don’t expect for Bahamians to believe that if we don’t discuss the importance of Bahamians participating in the industry, whether as owners or patrons, that if we don’t do it now it’s likely for us to do it later,” he said.  “Later when, after the next election?

“We cannot continue to leave the interests of Bahamians behind.”

In January, a majority of people who voted in a referendum on gambling voted no to the regularization and taxation of web shops.  The government has said it will abide by the outcome of that vote.

Debate on the Gaming Bill is expected to begin in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

November 04, 2013


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Grenada paid for the U.S. defeat in Vietnam

In what context did the U.S. invasion of Grenada take place
30 years ago? What similarities exist with the current U.S. position?

By Dalia González Delgado

WHAT could lead the most powerful country in the world to invade a nation of only 110,000 inhabitants? Three decades ago, some 7,000 U.S. marines and parachutists occupied Grenada, in an operation labeled Urgent Fury. The capital of this Caribbean island was bombarded by aircraft, helicopters and warships.

Maurice Bishop in 1980
The United Nations condemned the aggression. Ronald Reagan, who occupied the White House at the time, responded, "100 nations in the United Nations have not agreed with us on just about everything that's come before them where we are involved, and it didn't upset my breakfast at all."

This was the same President who when asked about the possibility of invading Nicaragua in 1986 said, " You're looking at an individual that is the last one in the world that would ever want to put American troops into Latin America, because the memory of the Great Colossus of the North is so widespread in Latin America, we'd lose all our friends if we did anything of that kind."

The events of October 1983 took place within the framework of an effort by Reagan, elected in 1981, to reestablish what in the view of neoconservatives was "the needed recovery of the U.S. military's ability to coerce," according to Cuban political scientist and researcher Dr. Carlos Alzugaray.

Some 7,000 U.S. marines and
parachutists invaded Grenada
October 25, 1983
"In the perception of this group, there existed what they described as a growing danger, evidenced by revolutions in Iran, Nicaragua and Grenada; Cuba's support to struggles in Angola and Ethiopia; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and other international events," the expert told Granma.

"They believed that all of this was due to the weak image projected by the United States after the defeat in Vietnam and the policy they described as pacifist which President Carter had implemented: a canal agreement with Panama, tolerance of the Soviet-Cuban-Nicaraguan support for revolutions in Central America, the Camp David Accords between Israel and Palestine, a pacifist policy in Europe, to give just a few examples."

Thus the current debate about the relative loss of power on the part of the United States - exacerbated by developments in Syria - has a precedent in the 1970's. 1979, when Maurice Bishop and his revolutionary New Jewel Movement came to power, was also the year of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. This was compounded by a decade of economic crisis.

The U.S. needed a show of force to make clear that the country still had the resources, and the will, to protect its strategic interests wherever they might be challenged, Alzugaray said.

"The Caribbean Basin was, for many, the perfect site, a location in which the relationship of forces favored the U.S. given the closeness and overwhelming military advantage.

"Both Nicaragua and Grenada were considered vulnerable," Alzugaray continued, "but different strategies were followed in the two countries: a covert war against the first, with support to reactionary regimes in the area, and an open invasion of the latter, once propitious conditions existed."

Grenada's revolutionary process fell victim to internal contradictions. The new government had disarmed the police, created a Popular Assembly with representation and participation by all social layers; began the redistribution of land; supported access to health care and education. More than 2,500 people had learned to read and write by 1981. Nevertheless, one segment of the leadership questioned Bishop's politics and demanded more radical positions. This led to his destitution, arrest and assassination on October 19, 1983. These were the conditions under which the U.S. mounted the invasion.

The most powerful country in the world is today experiencing the erosion of its hegemony. When faced with a similar situation in the past, the U.S reacted by attacking a small country. How might it respond today?

There were and are two possible reactions, then and now, said Ernesto Domínguez, from the University of Havana's Center for Hemispheric and U.S. Studies (CEHSEU), speaking with Granma: "Assume the decline and attempt to manage it in such a way to preserve a privileged position, or try to detain the process by resorting to the use of force, with several concrete objectives, such as giving a show of power, reaffirming geo-strategic positions, controlling key resources or stimulating the economy with military spending."

However, Dr. Domínguez commented that there are important differences between that historical moment and the present. "In the first place, at that time we were still in the middle of the bi-polarism of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. This added a factor which does not currently exist, one of an identified rival with which to compete, and a relationship of understandable confrontation-equilibrium," the professor asserted.

"At that time the decline was more apparent than real, given that the rival in question was in the process of internal disintegration which was not evident until a few years later, but which was already having serious effects, while the United States was far from this. The movements in Latin America and the Third World in general were strongly connected to the USSR in many ways.

"Currently, the relative decline appears more real, since multi-polarity is an emerging process, albeit with still a long way to go. Latin American movements do not depend on a socialist camp or on a power counterpoised to the United States. The current leftist and revolutionary movements have their roots more openly and solidly established in national and regional realities and contradictions, and they themselves are attempting to construct alternatives of integration," Alzugaray said.
October 31, 2013