Fernander slams ‘economic slavery’ at independence celebration
In a charge to the country on the anniversary of its 45th year of independence, Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander urged the government to focus more on innovation and not taxation for a better life for Bahamians.
“Over these 45 years, the culture of peace and prosperity is being disturbed by the tentacles of moral and social decay,” said Fernander, during the independence celebration on Clifford Park on Monday night.
“Slavery, segregation and colonial rule have reappeared under new labels, namely economic slavery, the widening of the gap between the haves and the have nots [and] international pressures from outside our community forcing us to conform to their dictates.
“We as a people of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas must reconnect as a country to our abiding faith in God.
“My brothers and sisters, I’ve concluded, and I hope you’ve concluded with me, I’d rather walk with God than bow down to the dictates of men.
“And as leaders of The Bahamas were men and women who walk by faith and not by sight, they sought to be innovative and progressive, depending on ingenuity of the Bahamian people rather than being degrading and regressive.
“My brothers and sisters, we cannot tax our way into a better tomorrow. We must innovate and elevate our natives and our resources and our people to a better tomorrow.”
While he did not directly point to it, Fernander’s charge came amid widespread debate over the government’s increase in value-added tax from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
When he announced the increase in VAT on May 30, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the government must find a way to pay off its “massive backlog of arrears” and set the stage for pending reductions in customs duties when The Bahamas accedes to the World Trade Organization next year.
The increase is expected to bring in an additional $400 million in new revenue.
The VAT increase took effect on July 1.
Fernander also pointed to the country’s use of the Westminster system, in relation to the firing of Bains and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson and Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller as parliamentary secretaries after they voted against the VAT Amendment Bill.
“We should have left a country that was divided by politics, color or economics in the water,” he said.
“We should have left that in the water.
“We should have left in the water a colonial system that causes our elected members of Parliament to be fired for representing the people that they were sent to Parliament to represent.
“We should have left that in the waters when we crossed over the Jordan.”
Robinson and Miller, along with Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine and Centreville MP Reece Chipman, all FNM MPs, voted against the increase in VAT.
McAlpine was also fired from his post as chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.