NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Senators on Thursday passed the Bill for an Act to amend the Business License Act, rolling back on the requirement for business owners to have audited financial and bank statements.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) senators and Members of Parliament, while agreeing with the changes to the Act, criticized the government for its lack of consultation before the original Bill was passed during the budget debate.
However, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the PLP should be the last to speak about consultation.
“A cold cruel heart, greedy government that wanted to get their money on tax dollars from legalized gambling came and spat in the face of the Bahaman people and passed the Gaming Bill,” he said.
“So before the words ‘consult with the people’ come out of the mouth of any PLP in this or any other place, let them remember the gaming referendum.”
Bethel also briefly touched on the National Health Insurance Authority’s proposed two per cent payroll tax to fund universal healthcare.
In a policy paper, the authority said the tax, which would be deducted directly from salaries, would mean health coverage for all, including the unemployed.
The proposal has received a lot of pushback from critics who say an additional tax is too much following a recent increase in value-added tax (VAT). However, the AG said it’s the price we have to pay for a healthy nation.
“You can’t get something for nothing,” Bethel said.
“If you want a benefit there has to be a level at which we are a people are prepared to shoulder whatever that benefit is. Because there is no benefit without a burden.
“At the end of the day we want a society that can provide for all, but based on the premise that those who can pay should pay so the commonwealth of the people may be improved.”
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands previously said that the proposed two per cent tax on wages is not set in stone. He explained that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are inviting the opinions of all stakeholders in the community before they make a final decision.