NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Chester Cooper, the Member of Parliament for Exuma and Ragged Island on Wednesday lambasted the government’s 2019/2020 fiscal budget, stating that it only benefitted the rich, the connected, the powerful and special interest groups.
“There are those of us in here who will sit idly by and thunderously applaud the application of even more pressure to the poor and working class, yet say nothing when asked why we do not tax the wealthy, because clearly we give tax breaks to the rich in The Bahamas,” said Cooper while giving his contribution to the budget debate in the Upper Chamber.
“We only tax the working and middle class.
“We only tax those still in the struggle.
“But I will tell you, that the struggle is real.
“If you’re one of the lucky few who made it, congratulations, it’s smooth sailing from here with this government.”
Yesterday, Cooper referred to the government’s 2019/2020 budget as a failure and claimed that it was clear that there was ‘heavy lobbying’ for and on behalf of special interest groups, and their negotiators won.
The Exuma MP therefore asked yesterday who negotiated for the people.
He claimed that it was clear that the special interest got tax breaks and the poor and middle class got ‘shafted’ once again.
“We see the new car dealers at it again. On top of the $25 million lost in excise tax last year, because you allow them to bring in the cars duty free and only pay taxes when they sell the car, they get even more tax breaks this time,” Cooper claimed.
“In the real property tax amendments, the removal of the residency requirement for home owner’s exemption for real property tax. Instead of 6 months it is now just seasonal occupancy, which could be widely interpreted and abused by rich second home owners.
“This is going to cost the Government millions. So the rich get loopholes and the poor gets crayons.”
Cooper also noted that there is a new tax on currency conversion of 1.5% when money is exchanged.
He said not only does this potentially undermine dollar parity, but it unintentionally encourages hoarding and a black market.
“The Exchange Control regulation was amended last year to allow businesses to operate US$ accounts. So this is going to hit the poor disproportionately. In the simplest terms, as I interpret it, if a straw vendor, jet ski operator or tour operator in Exuma deposits a US$100 into their Bahamian dollar account, they would receive credit for only $98.50.
“The rich get loopholes and the poor get taxed!
“How caring. It must be the people’s time.
“So, I will say it again, this is a failure of a budget.”
Cooper said this ‘travesty’ of an FNM budget has not one new idea that the PLP did not leave in the pipeline before it left office in 2017.
He also referred to the FNM as a “visionless” party that is also ‘wildly hypocritical’ as it implemented many policies that it was against while in Opposition.
“Remember when the FNM was against the Spy Bill …and passed it? Didn’t Killarney march with We March against it? How hypocritical,” Cooper said.
“Remember when the FNM said it believed in free tuition yet is standing by while tuition costs significantly go up at UB?
“Remember when the FNM said the BPL exemption would benefit 60,000 households, now we understand it’s only 23,000?
“Remember when the FNM said they were friends of the poor, yet gave tax breaks on caviar, new cars, planes, helicopters? How compassionate?
“I guess it’s dem people’s time.”
Meanwhile Cooper said aside from the lack of vision, the hypocrisy, and the claiming of credit for other people’s ideas, the 2019/2020 budget itself falls short of the standard of a budget which should be delivered to Parliament.