Give Bahamians a break!
In last week’s column titled “Nasty, nasty, nasty”, I mistakenly said that my Rotary group cleaned up Adelaide Beach. We, in fact, cleaned up the Coral Harbour public beach. This was an error on my part, and I ask the good people of Adelaide to please accept my most humble apologies.
Moving on to a new topic: call me a protectionist, but, like most Bahamians, I feel as though we don’t get our fair share of incentives when it comes to business in our own country. I believe that, as a Bahamian, I should be given a competitive edge over anybody else coming into this country to purchase a home or do business. Some of these incentives may include such changes as perhaps a reduction in standard Stamp Tax and VAT, compared to what non-Bahamians are charged. Surely my birthright and citizenship of The Bahamas must have some benefits.
Other countries protect their citizens by giving them preferred treatment in the form of acts of protecting their natural rights and ensuring their needs as citizens are wholly prioritized over non-citizens and residents. A prime example of this hits close to home for me as my daughter experienced this slight form of nationalism as a student in Canada.
My daughter graduated from McGill University in Montreal but was forced to go to a U.S. university to complete her medical degree, simply because McGill catered to natives of Quebec and the rest of Canada, giving Canadians the preferred placement seats. What makes this more unfair is that, due to these procedures, some worthy applicants lose out on opportunity. When we send our children off to school, you can be assured that our cost would be higher as they are international students.
The government’s new investment strategy to lure foreign investments into the country has caused a new furor, and the anti-foreigners rhetoric has raised its ugly head once again.
I give the government credit for trying to revive our economy which is in a slump, as unemployment is rising. However giving away the shop is not the answer. The current threshold of $250,000, in my opinion, is far too low.
Governments always seem to take our local business for granted figuring we will always be here and there is no place for us to go, bearing in mind we’re the ones providing fuel to keep this country going. Now we read about the new bill and the benefits that will accrue to the foreign investors, and our people ask, ‘What are you doing for us?’
You can start by reducing these horrendous electricity charges, reducing Stamp Tax and VAT and make it more realistic for young Bahamians to afford a home.
Please, leave those Bahamians alone who choose to operate bed and breakfasts. Instead, why don’t you tax the non-Bahamians who opportunistically rent out their high-end houses and condos? This lone inconsistency clearly indicates the very obvious disparity between Bahamian and non-Bahamian ownership. Economically, things are a bit tight for many of us, and we are resorting to creative ways of keeping our homes and the lights on. Renting rooms in the manner of a bed and breakfast is one method we resort to in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.
Bed and breakfast visitors are truly a special type of traveller. These individuals are not the simplistic kind of tourists we’d expect but rather people who consciously decide to run away from the mega-resorts and glitz and glam of the hotels.
I’m sure if the tourism folks read the reviews of bed and breakfasts (B&B) from their stays in the Bahamas, they’d appreciate the awesome jobs our Bahamian B&B hosts are doing for our tourism industry. In many cases, our visitors are so impressed that they often come back or refer their friends!
It’s time to stop ignoring the many benefits and opportunities the Bahamian B&B industry can bring to our economy. The government should seek to reward the proprietors of this small cottage industry with financial incentives rather than miles of red tape and unfair taxes. It is truly time the government turned the page and welcomed a new chapter in the tourism revolution.
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: email@example.com.