Who is not paying real property taxes?
I think it’s safe to say that we would all agree that governing the islands of The Bahamas must be a fiscal nightmare for any government.
Think about it; every service that we have in New Providence has to be duplicated in almost every island that has a population, such as electricity, water, health clinics, police, customs, immigration, schools and the list goes on.
The government is still in the process of determining how to proceed with getting Ragged Island up and running after they were hit pretty hard after the last hurricane. When you think of the infrastructure cost to rehabilitate the island, especially considering Ragged Island has less than 50 inhabitants living there, it really makes no financial sense to do this. It will never pay for itself because the numbers simply are not there to support the financial outlay and upkeep.
The same applies to Bahamasair, whose southern routes are heavily subsidized – the reason being that it is deemed an essential service, so the cost of flying to them can be reasonable so that people living there or tourists can afford to get there.
Of course the other side of the coin is simply if the airline was more streamlined, more efficient, had less staff, passed these routes to smaller carriers that have lower overhead and paid more attention to more profitable routes, reducing the drain on the public purse.
Speaking of a drain on the public purse, there is a big difference in what taxes homeowners pay in New Providence, versus the Bahamian homeowners in the Family Islands. Truth be told, the family islanders, specifically Bahamians, don’t pay any real property tax! Yes, nothing!
It’s unreal when you look at some of those houses, especially in the more developed islands; some of those homes would put more of the modest homes in Nassau to shame.
I understand the reason for granting these concessions many years ago to encourage Family Islands development, but perhaps it’s time the government revisits the non-paying of real property tax by these persons whose homes are worth more than the $250,000.
For homes that fall under $250,000 in Nassau, real property tax is waived and the same should apply to the Family Islands. At the end of the day, everyone has to pay their fair share of taxes to help fund upkeep of the island and essential services.
On the other hand, the majority of these islands do not have basic services like fire engines, emergency services and even proper medical services. The most disturbing thing is the fact that some islands sadly do not even have a proper morgue.
In order for the government to ensure they are using taxes for appropriate resources, it would be best practice to allow a portion of the taxes to remain on an island in order to fund these much-needed essential services. The funds should not end up in the dark hole called the consolidated fund.
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.