Sunday, Jul 21, 2019
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In defense of Rupert Roberts

Dear Editor,

The “Graduate” never ceases to amaze me. After saying all the good things Rupert Roberts has done in his lifetime he proceeds to get nasty, degrading and personal.

Yes, Roberts has made money. Yes, Roberts is on the top of the pile. He got there by hard work and at the same time helping others. The Graduate, on the other hand, has sucked his way to the top, helping nobody on his way up.

When I was minister of agriculture I started a campaign “Buy Bahamian”. Roberts was the first one to join in. When I returned from a trip to Exuma, I phoned Roberts and told him that the farmers there were unable to market their peppers. He sent his people there and bought virtually all the peppers. All Bahamian produced products got prime position on the shelves of Super Value.

When I put a ban on bananas to help Bahamian farmers get into the market, Super Value bought as many as could be supplied. City Markets, on the other hand, refused to buy any.

The Graduate says that City Markets gave many scholarships. They did indeed. Super Value gave as many. He helped people build homes and develop businesses.

And The Graduate says he’s a doddering old man who needs to “evolve”. That’s what you call ingratitude.

And all this criticism because he does not believe that joining the WTO is good for The Bahamas?

True, Roberts has no formal university training in economics, but he does have a PhD from the University of Hard Knocks. Personally, I would have thought that advice from a man with Roberts’ local experience and knowledge would be far better than someone with little or no experience on the local scene.

Obviously, he spoke of how it would affect his business, which he knows best. With this knowledge he would be able to predict how it would affect other businesses. The Graduate indicates that he should be happy to know that his business has been protected in the WTO agreement and, therefore, should not worry. Yes, this is how The Graduate thinks – himself only. Roberts, on the other hand, thinks of how it would affect those other Bahamian businesses that are not protected.

The Graduate indicates that Roberts should “partner” with a foreign company in order to modernize his stores and thus bring prices down. Experience shows and history tells us that a foreign-owned company does not automatically bring prices down.

But let us for one minute buy The Graduate’s argument. Let us say the foreign “partner” buys 45 percent of Super Value. This means that when dividends are declared, 45 percent of the amount declared would leave the country. What?

To save money, the 45 percent foreign investor may suggest that Super Value’s administrative operations should be moved out of the country. This means more Bahamian jobs could be lost. What? (Don’t believe me? Check BPL and BTC.)

Maybe The Graduate has another motive. Maybe, just maybe he/she/it has a friend or family waiting in the wings to get a piece of the action. Just maybe.

The argument that we must join the WTO in order to eliminate import duties has been used quite frequently. This is not true. Import duties and joining WTO are two different things.

Our form of taxation was designed assuming that duties would be around 10 percent.

It taxes from the “bottom up”. In other words, it becomes part of the “cost of doing business” which means it is added to the price of the item, which pushes prices up.

On the other hand, “corporate tax” is charged from the “top down”. This means that a person is taxed on his/her profits and it’s not added to the cost of the goods.

Whether we join the WTO or not, the system of import duties has to change because it’s pushing prices too high. The “little man” is being asked to bear too much of the burden.

Today, the government is making more on a car than the dealer who is now being accused of “overpricing”. The government makes more than the merchant on most, if not all, items that are brought into this country.

Yes my friends, be careful. WTO may bring plenty of money for some people and make others slaves. But why does The Graduate care, he/she/it has a strong suction cup?

– Pierre V.L. Dupuch

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