Stakeholders in the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and the financial and private sectors are preparing for a major symposium to discuss the pivotal issues of tax reform in The Bahamas.
At a news conference at the Chamber yesterday, officials again gathered to appeal to the public to come to the National Symposium for Tax Reform, which will be held at the College of The Bahamas from October 25 to October 26.
College of The Bahamas (COB) President Dr. Betsy Vogel-Boze said part of the college’s function is to help to provide solutions.
“This is why our involvement and partnership in the national dialogue about matters of national development – and in this instance tax reform – is so important. While there may be different and possibly some strong opinions on the strengths and advantages of different taxation proposals, most will agree that The Bahamas needs to bring this discussion out in the open,” she said.
“Whatever side you are on, what tax reform might look like and whether you agree that the system needs fundamental reform or not, it is our expectation that we will all come away with a better understanding as we learn from the participants in these tax debates.”
Chamber President Chester Cooper stressed the importance of the symposium.
“This type of partnership has perhaps never been seen in The Bahamas before,” he said.
“So, we are hoping that it will unfold in a very significant and tangible way. This is significant because firstly the revenues of the Bahamas need significant improvement to bridge the deficit, secondly it’s important that any new taxes cements the government’s competitiveness position in the world and thirdly it is key to the overall development of The Bahamas and the economy in The Bahamas.”
He continued, “What is critical to emphasise is that every individual and every business will be impacted by this.”
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Country Head Astrid Winters said that the bank is in support of the symposium because the current stream of revenue needs modification.
“The current system could be more equitable. We are very pleased to support this dialogue where the public will have access to experts from other countries and within this country who will address what is tax reform and which methods would work well for The Bahamas,” she said.
“It’s part of the development process in The Bahamas that we support.”
World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiator Raymond Winder said the dialogue will help to facilitate free trade in The Bahamas.
“One of the challenges of becoming a part of WTO is that the current tax regime that we so heavily rely upon is one that the WTO does not consider one we can retain going forward. But like in any conversation that we are having, it’s important that we look at all facets of the situation. While the country needs to improve on its revenue intake, we must appreciate and understand that as a country we must also give consideration to the new products and services that we intend to offer,” he said.
“We need to put in place the kind of incentives that are acceptable by our world partners.”
Chairman of the symposium Franklyn Wilson also made an appeal.
“If you are a business and you represent a regional office I encourage you and your clients to come. We don’t want to do something where it affected the second home market. So if you are involved in real estate or whatever the case it is – encourage these persons to be engaged. I think that is enough to say to everyone – this will work, if we all get engaged.”
Some of the speakers at the symposium include Central Bank Governor Wendy Craigg, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) representative, Richard Francis; former State Minister for Finance James Smith, COB Senior Economist Dr. Olivia Saunders and Chief Executives of RBC Caribbean Marla Dukharan among others.