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Going forward, chamber expects dialogue with govt on budget

Edison Sumner.

Nothing will be left off the table when it comes to the conversation the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) will have with Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest regarding the proposed increase in value-added tax (VAT), including possible refunds or rebates for the inevitable increases in the costs businesses will incur, Chamber CEO Edison Sumner explained yesterday.

Sumner said the chamber has reached out to Oxford Economics, the global forecasting and quantitative analysis firm it used to assess VAT’s impact when it was implemented in 2015, to assist in compiling an updated research paper based on the current situation in the country. The BCCEC wants to know how the move from 7.5 percent VAT to 12 percent VAT will affect the Bahamian people.

Sumner said the BCCEC has also asked Turnquest to delay the implementation of the VAT increase until the report is done, two and a half months from now.

“We have written to the DPM asking for him to give us some time to allow the report to be written and once it is done, we will share the report in totality with the government in an effort to help the government and the private sector understand the real implications of this increase in VAT on the private sector, and how we can support the government’s revenue stream,” he said.

“Like we’ve said before, we don’t think we will be able to tax ourselves out of the situation. We have to consider our tax infrastructure holistically, to determine what is going to be the best course of action going forward.

“And the DPM did indicate that he is open to having those discussions. He is open to receiving recommendations, which means that the door is still left cracked open a little bit to allow for some opportunity, and whatever space we have we’ll take advantage of that space, so we’re going to get the right people before the government to have this conversation.”

Sumner said the chamber’s position is not one that is anti-government when it comes to the VAT increase issue; however, he stressed that the chamber will not be left out again when government plans the country’s national budget.

Sumner explained that the government engaged the private sector before presenting its 2017/2018 national budget. And when the government’s Fiscal Responsibility Bill is passed, the formation of government’s statutory economic council should mean that, starting with the 2019/2020 budget, the BCCEC will always be consulted before government introduces its budget to the country.

“Going forward we expect to be having a dialogue with the government, and we believe they’re not going to pull those kinds of practices on us again – at least we hope it doesn’t happen again,” said Sumner.

 

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