NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Michael Pintard has accused the Davis administration of breaking the law over its decision to eliminate customs duties on pleasure vessels outside of parliamentary approval.
The change was not reflected in the recent budget exercise.
However, Financial Secretary Simon Wilson, in a letter dated June 23rd, 2022, told Bahamas Department of Customs officials that the removal of the 10 percent duty rate on pleasure vessels was unintentionally left off the budget sheet, but should be recognized and implemented by them.
Wilson said: “I am directed to advise that as a result of the change to the rate of duty on pleasure vessels inadvertently being omitted from the budget measure sheet the Customs Department is now instructed to treat the following tariff heading as duty-free until the subsequent amendment to the tariff Act is done during the next budget exercise.
“As pleasure vessels that currently attract a ten percent rate of duty in Chapter 89 of the tariff Act under the tariff heading ‘8903’ is now approved for a duty-free rate of duty. The change is effective immediately.”
Pintard said in a statement: “The Opposition remains stunned that the government has not yet rescinded and reversed its unlawful instructions to the Customs Department to allow the duty-free importation of pleasure boats and yachts outside of parliamentary approval.
“There is absolutely no reason for the government to continue to break the law in this way.
“They know the sad excuses offered by the prime minister have no merit.
“They are duty-bound to state the legal authority to waive duties by memorandum.”
Pintard continued: “The Government has given unlawful instructions to amend the tariff without parliamentary approval or an Order from the governor general.
“We are confident that the government has not followed the mandated steps to amend Tariffs or ensure ‘the protection of revenue.
“It is shameful – and especially so as they are doing this in an unlawful manner while refusing to remove VAT from essential items like medicine, breadbasket goods and baby supplies.”
Prime Minister Philip Davis has defended the government’s actions, noting that the move is part of its efforts to grow the country’s blue economy.
Davis affirmed that the tax elimination was not made in secret and that he would investigate why it was omitted during the budget exercise.