VAT: BAD FOR BUSINESS, BAD FOR BAHAMIANS
As 2014 comes to a close, thousands of Bahamians across our archipelago are preparing for the January 1 implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT). Already struggling families must now brace themselves for additional cost of living increases and business owners who had been planning expansions and new hires have opted to shelve those plans as they wait to see what effect the new regime will have on the economy.
In just days, the new tax regime threatens to completely and indefinitely alter the economic landscape of the country, and not for the better. Even worse, in the lead up to the launch of the new tax laws, the government bungled the campaign which had been expected to prepare the public for the widespread changes. Instead, the government has consistently bullied the business community into co-signing this venture, threatening them with heavy fines and jail time for non-compliance; this, even as government officials continue to lead the pack for failure to pay their own taxes.
The January 1 implementation date will also take effect without the existence of a Freedom of Information Act. Given this administration’s propensity for corruption, the enforcement of such legislation is key. In fact, Freedom of Information was one of several recommendations made by the government’s own VAT consultants who highlighted the need for such laws to exist in a VAT environment specifically as a means of making the process as transparent as possible. Still, this crucial piece of legislation, which has already been passed in Parliament, has yet to be enacted by this administration and so far no steps have been taken to facilitate the more than 100 amendments that the government claims is needed to enforce it.
Like countless other pressing national issues, an overhaul of the country’s tax system is an idea whose time has come. Unfortunately, the government’s handling of the initiative has proven that without proper planning, consultation and the advancement of a focused and widespread education campaign, such a strategy could have catastrophic consequences for our already struggling economy. Time and time again, the actions of this PLP administration prove that the idea of economic stability was nothing more than an empty campaign promise.
Instead of a clear and concise policy from which business owners and consumers could build concrete plans, what Bahamians have gotten have been countless delays in advancing the accompanying regulations – a draft of which was FINALLY made public last week – and unclear and often misleading government proclamations which have served only to feed into the misinformation about the initiative. Even now, just days away from the implementation the average Bahamian remains unclear of how the new system will affect their lives on a day to day basis. Who will protect the small man? Who will protect the consumer? Certainly this government has proven that they are NOT up to the task.
As the Bahamas continues to grow and develop, a responsible government must do what is necessary to ensure that all aspects of our country’s economy remain strong and vibrant. This government has failed miserably in this regard. VAT is BAD FOR BUSINESS and certainly BAD FOR THE BAHAMAS!