Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney said there was no reason for the Christie Administration to hire consultants out of New Zealand to analyse the Value Added Tax (VAT) proposal when several groups of Bahamians have been making the very same recommendations the foreigners have made for months.
In a press statement issued Tuesday Mr. McCartney said the government could have easily saved itself thousands of dollars in consultancy fees by simply listening to the collective voice of the men and women responsible for driving the local economy.
“The Democratic National Alliance finds it particularly interesting that some of the recommendations from the government’s highly paid consultants are in fact similar, if not identical to the suggestions offered by members of the local business community,” the DNA leader said. “Outside of the obvious recommendation for a properly planned and executed education campaign, the tax experts – according to media reports – also suggested that the government finalise its tax design before beginning its VAT campaign in earnest.
“So far, unfinished versions of the government’s tax plan which includes a list of exemptions which may or may not be part of the final plan have been leaked through the media and allowed to further muddy the waters on this matter.”
The government has announced that the July implementation will be delayed.
The DNA said it firmly believes that like in New Zealand, the passage of such legislation in The Bahamas will work to establish a renewed trust and faith in this government’s plans for fiscal reforms.
“While the Democratic National Alliance believes in, and is committed to tax reforms, we simply cannot endorse the government’s handling of this effort thus far,” he added. “We hope now, that after hearing the recommendations from an outside source, the Christie Administration finally takes the necessary steps to ensuring that any fiscal reforms enacted are implemented with a view to stabilising the economy and improving the government’s relationship with the private sector.”
Mr. McCartney added that VAT experts hired to advise the Christie Administration on the implementation of the proposed tax regime have confirmed the long standing position of many local business owners as well as the DNA that tax reforms in The Bahamas cannot succeed without the advancement of a focused and widespread education campaign.
“According to comments attributed to both John Shewan and Don Brash which ran in the local dailies this week, the government of New Zealand, which has arguably had the greatest success in VAT implementation, attributes the success of that initiative in part to their commitment to an 18 month educational program,” Mr. McCartney added.
“Unfortunately for Bahamians, we have received no such commitment from this administration. For months, the government, while on one hand promising to launch such an educational campaign, has on the other hand, allowed the uncertainty associated with VAT to negatively impact plans for expansion within the private sector. Even now, just 63 days from the originally proposed implementation date, this administration has yet to table the accompanying legislation. They have instead chosen to bully local business owners into compliance with a system that very few people currently understand.
“Also of note was the position that a Freedom of Information Act is imperative to the successful implementation of a VAT system. The DNA has long called for the passage of this key piece of legislation as a means of facilitating the free flow of information to the public as well as keeping our elected officials accountable.”