Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Andrew Allen’s cheeky argument

Dear Editor,

Lawyers are taught that in order to prevail in the courtroom, the premise of their argument must be more plausible than the conclusions they draw.

Recently, Andrew Allen took issue with this writer’s review of a column by Nicki Kelly that surmised that she was a tad biased in her heavy-handed critique of the prime minister.

Mr. Allen asserts, quite correctly, that Ms. Kelly is entitled to her own opinion. True indeed, but she is not entitled to claim her own facts.

As a veteran journalist she became known for her mostly objective reporting. Now as a columnist she offers up opinion, but opinion must be anchored in the world of reality.

Mr. Allen gives a cursory defense of Ms. Kelly but then pivoted to a wishy-washy economic dissertation that had it been a thesis defense, the invigilators would have given it short shrift.

He made a feeble case for his central premise, namely, that he disagrees with the government’s tax policies. To that he is entitled. However, in rebuttal it bears noting that what he left out of his argument would have destroyed it completely.

Though he used the guise of defending Ms. Kelly, the real intent of his letter was to get off his chest a thimble-full of policy items that he thinks the prime minister got wrong, none of which rises to the level of neurosis or emasculation that Ms. Kelly sees in Hubert Minnis.

Citizens don’t like to pay taxes. That’s a fact. The rate of VAT was increased by 37 percent from 7.5 percent to 12 percent. VAT is a tax on consumption and because lower-income households spend a greater percentage of their income on surviving, the burden of VAT is regressive on them.

This is where the government’s public relations messaging at the time of the VAT increase was dreadful. What crippled households in The Bahamas for decades was the even more regressive customs duty.

With VAT, the government has been able to roll back or even eliminate some of the duties paid on many everyday items. Most attracted between 35 and 65 percent duty.

Minnis et al also zero rated (i.e. eliminated) VAT on many breadbasket and everyday items that low-income households depend on. Mr. Allen knows this, but this little tidbit didn’t serve his soliloquy.

On Lyford Cay, he knows that not one of the expats residing there needs to be here in The Bahamas. They chose to be here and not exclusively for the good weather.

There is a global cadre of super-high-net-worth individuals who go wherever they can get real or perceived special treatment. For many it is a second (or third), not a primary, home.

In the U.S. rich people don’t just love Florida for the climate. It’s a state with no income tax. Were Florida to introduce one, they would probably leave in droves.

It’s also unfair to label this government as the only one to pander to Lyford Cay. We have been giving them special treatment since 1959 when Canadian Edward Plunkett Taylor developed it as a playground for the “very rich and determined to not be famous”.

Counselor Allen knows what happened just five years ago when the French decided to impose a 75% supertax on the rich. Though popular with 60% of the French, the taxman said it was a flop at raising revenue for their Treasury.

When Perry Christie handed over the keys to our Treasury to Peter Turnquest, there was no money, we were downgraded by the international credit rating agencies and we were on the precipice staring down at financial Armageddon.

It hasn’t been without pain, but we are on the rebound. Getting our financial house in order means cheaper borrowing costs, lower debt repayment etc. Fighting corruption helps the poor just as surely as reigning in reckless government spending.

Perhaps we can entice an academic study to look into just how the poor and the middle class are truly faring under the new tax and spend policies of this government.

It was never the intent to carry water for this Prime Minister or any other. And the influence of this writer on the PM is likely the same as that of Mr. Allen: limited to whatever credence the Prime Minister gives to what he reads in the newspapers. Judging by how hard people like Mr. Allen and Nicki Kelly grade his performance, you would have to say, “Not much”.


– The Graduate


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