Cooper: FNM’s “brute force” will be its downfall

Cooper: FNM’s “brute force” will be its downfall
Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said yesterday that the Minnis administration’s failure to consult with stakeholders on key policy initiatives that impact taxpayers will be its downfall.

“This failure apparent today was also apparent on Monday when the attorney general, whom I suggested members opposite consult, delayed for a week the Non-Profit Organizations Bill due to concerns raised by the church and civil society,” Cooper said.

“Some might find that strange. However, I don’t.”

He continued, “This is how the FNM does business, with brute force; no finesse, steeped in the errant belief in its own rightness.”

He made the statement during debate on the Business License (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2018, which repeals amendments made to the act in May.

Parliament passed the bill yesterday.

The amendment regulations, which came into effect on May 30, required companies with an annual turnover of $10 million or more to provide audited financial statements to evidence the prior year’s earnings to renew their business licenses.

All companies under the $10 million threshold were required to submit a financial statement evidencing their turnover and certified bank statements to the Department of Inland Revenue.

The original amendments were labelled an incursion into corporate privacy.

Earlier this month, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest conceded that the concerns expressed by businesses in The Bahamas had merit and said the increased compliance requirements for businesses was not in line with the government’s goal of improving the ease of doing business in the country.

Cooper, the shadow minister for finance, said the government appeared incapable of understanding that businessmen and businesswomen who have invested lifetimes in a venture the government “blunders into”, know what is good for their businesses and in their best interest.

“This was the case with the non-profit bill, the gaming tax,” he said.

“And it is the case with the business license issue before us.

“Try to spin it any way you want.

“What it is, is clear on the face of it.

“You have egg on your face and you seek to clean it up before any real damage is done.

“You did not listen to the business community on value-added tax (VAT).

“Now you struggle to meet your projected targets.

“You did not listen to the [Bahamas] Christian Council on the non-profits, [and] now you seek to rush their participation in a revamped bill before the end of the year.

The Senate delayed debate on the Non-Profit Organizations Bill this week in response to criticisms from civil society and the church that the bill, if passed in its current form would wipe out civil society organization.

The bill seeks to register and regulate these organizations, and penalize them for failure to meet financial reporting requirements. The government was also strongly criticized for failing to consult stakeholders or incorporate draft legislation produced by Civil Society Bahamas.

Cooper added, “You did not listen to us on the Grand Lucayan [resort].

“Now here we are, using the people’s tax dollars to fix up the hotel to make it somewhat attractive to investors.

“Here we are settling with government money, severance costs for those employed for years by a private business — all because you negotiated poorly on the people’s behalf.

“They call that fattening frog for snake in Forbes Hill, Little Exuma, where I am from Mr. Speaker.”

The government purchased the resort for $65 million, with $30 million paid up front.

It said the purchase was in the interest of Grand Bahamians and the economy.

However, there were concerns about the government’s purchase, its ability to find a buyer and the loss it would incur in the process. This week, Turnquest said the government could turn a profit on the resort.

Additionally, Cooper accused the Minnis administration of doing business by “brute force” and said it is “steeped in the errant belief in its own rightness”.