Categorized | Featured, National News

Referendum Framework Tabled


After weeks of criticism and being accused of breaking the law, Prime Minister Perry Christie on Wednesday introduced amendments to the Constitutional Referendum Act that will provide the legal framework for the upcoming gambling referendum and any others that might be proposed.

The prime minister said these amendments should ensure that referenda are appropriately consistent with the requirements of fairness, integrity and transparency that the country has come to expect from the general elections.

“As the Act will henceforth apply to all types of referenda, both constitutional and non-constitutional, the title of the Act will be changed from the Constitutional Referendum Act to the Referendum Act,” Prime Minister Christie said.

“The bill (that was) introduced will also make provision for the modification of the Parliamentary Elections Act in relation to non-constitutional referenda. It will empower the minister to make regulations so as to ensure that the machinery, forms, procedures and protocols that apply to elections are adapted to a referendum.”

Opponents to the gambling referendum have long criticised the prime minister for admitting that holding the referendum was unconstitutional.

But on Wednesday he said he is hoping that this soon to be debated bill is passed into law by the end of the year, just in time for the new January 28, 2013 referendum date.

“I am satisfied that the bill will put to rest such concerns or questions that may be in the country as to the correctness of the framework and machinery that will be employed in the referendum,” he added.

The prime minister also explained some of the economic benefits web shops have had on the local economy, which include more than 4,000 Bahamians being gainfully employed on an annual payroll of over $15 million, National Insurance Board (NIB) contributions in excess of $1 million, over $33 million in buildings and capital, over $100,000 in business licence fees, more than $5 million in scholarships and donations and more than $9 million in utilities and operating and other expenses.

“If the web shop operations were to be regularised, it is contemplated that a cash bond of not less than $1 million would be paid by each licencee and annual tax of up to 15 per cent on the gross sums wagered,” he added. “This should yield, using conservative estimates, not less than $15 million to $20 million annually to the Public Treasury.”

At the end of the day the prime minister said the options for the government are simple, either regulate, regularise and appropriately tax the web shop industry or dismantle the illegal industry, bringing down the full brunt of the law on the operators and the players.

Debate on the Constitutional Referendum Amendment Bill, 2012 is expected to begin next Wednesday.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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