“I will tell you what we’re not going to do — ask poor and middle-class Bahamians to pay more in taxes”
Opposition leader says economy cannot begin to recover until health crisis is under control
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis last night pledged that if elected, his administration would not ask for more taxes from poor and middle-class Bahamians, noting that the COVID-19 health crisis and the country’s debt crisis must be addressed with urgency.
Davis, while delivering a televised address on the party’s economic summit last night, said: “We’ll make sure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. We will make sure that high-end properties pay their real property tax.
“We’ll make certain that commercial and foreign-owned properties are on the register and properly valued for tax purposes.
“We’re also going to fast-track those investments which can bring in the most value.
“I will tell you what we’re not going to do — ask poor and middle-class Bahamians to pay more in taxes.
“We’ve heard reports that this government is planning to do just that because they can’t raise money to fund their budget.
“In fact, we’ve heard that they called the election early because they wanted the voting to be over before they came for your pockets again.
“How can you ask more from people who have nothing more to give?”
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has denied rumors of plans to raise taxes if he is reelected.
Davis yesterday also pledged that his government would reduce value-added tax (VAT) to 10 percent across the board if elected.
“Dozens of countries have offered VAT relief to their people during this pandemic and we should do so too,” he said.
“Too many Bahamians find themselves standing at the cash register in the food store, trying to decide which things to take out of their basket because they can’t afford even the basics of what their families need. This government set up a food assistance programme that seems to prioritize private profits instead of the dignity and health of our people.”
He added: “We plan to use the RISE pre-paid debit card and make sure that what people receive is in line with the high cost of living. Bahamians will be able to buy food from shops all around the country, which will also help hundreds of small businesses.
“In addition to the VAT reduction, we will increase funding to social services. People just need a little breathing room.”
The Minnis administration has spent some $200 million on its pandemic response, including its food assistance programme and unemployment benefits.
Davis noted last night that the PLP has a 10-point Action Plan to fight COVID, stressing that until the health crisis is under control, the economy cannot begin to recover.
“In order to lift the country out of crisis, we will have to move urgently on multiple fronts at once. First, we have to bring COVID under control,” said Davis.
“This government has failed badly, with The Bahamas at the bottom of regional and national rankings.”
He added: “We are also facing a debt crisis and need to move quickly to stabilize public finances. Not only has this government engaged in unprecedented levels of borrowing — around $2 billion per year — they have managed to borrow all that money without investing in our country’s future.
“Two billion dollars a year without a single new school, clinic, airport, major road or hospital — nothing to show for it.”
Davis promised that his administration would recommend to the National Tripartite Council that minimum wage is increased to $250 per week; address alleged salary arrears owed to public servants and government vendors; and revive the Revenue Enhancement Unit to bring in more government revenue.