There will be no increase in the value-added tax (VAT) rate, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday in the House of Assembly.
“It is no intention on the part of this government to increase the value-added tax. There is no such discussion, preliminary or otherwise,” he said.
His assertion came after Exumas and Ragged Island Member of Parliament Chester Cooper expressed concern that the government will have to increase the tax rate in order to meet its budget projections.
During debate on the government’s 2018 Fiscal Strategy Report, Cooper said, “One of my most alarming predictions upon reading your report is that this government will come for an increase in the rate of VAT or other taxes at the mid-term budget or come to borrow even more.
“That’s my prediction, and I hope I’m wrong.”
Turnquest stood on a point of order and said Cooper’s assertion is an “unfortunate recurring rumor”.
He said, “It has the ability to cause panic, not just locally, but internationally.”
Cooper responded, “I never said anything about rumor. I said it is my opinion and it is my prediction, and I hope I am wrong.
“I predicted this not just by examining the revenue shortfalls, inclusive of December’s collections, but also the expenditure patterns and the borrowing report. Customs as a
barometer of consumption, is down in most major categories.”
Commenting on the Fiscal Strategy Report – mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2018 – Turnquest said it was “a historic achievement in the implementation of our government’s drive to fundamentally transform both public financial management and the public finances in our nations”.
The Minnis administration set a goal to balance the government’s budget within three years of governance.
However, Cooper said he does not believe the goal is achievable “without some fundamental restructuring of this administration’s priorities on both the revenue and expenditure side”.