DNA pans ‘slap in the face’ budget
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) yesterday said that the government’s “painful to watch” 2019/2020 budget communication ultimately fell flat and was “another episode of self-aggrandization and pats on the back”.
“The minister of finance delivered his third budget communication in the House of Assembly yesterday to a nation in desperate need of hope and some positive news,” the DNA said in a statement.
“Once again, the Free National Movement (FNM) administration showed its lack of compassion and disconnection from the plight of the masses.
“The delivery of the communication was both uninspiring and underwhelming, while the extended rendition of shallow pronouncements was painful to watch.
“In a communication that fell flat for most Bahamians, the government’s idea of positive news was the continuous reminder that the value-added tax (VAT) rate will not be increased again.
“In the aftermath of a 60 percent increase in the VAT rate in the previous year, this heartless administration expected nationwide jubilation for choosing not to worsen the financial condition of the Bahamian people.”
Last July, the government increased VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
During the budget communication, Finance Minister Peter Turnquest announced that there would be no VAT increase.
Further, in November the government made electricity bills $300 and lower VAT exempt after fuel prices pushed Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) fuel charge and electricity bills higher.
Turnquest said that the once temporary measure has now been made permanent.
Additionally, Turnquest revealed that tax relief measures in the budget included duty reductions worth $28 million in revenue.
“The reduction in customs duties to the tune of $28 million in the face of the massive increase in taxes to the tune of $500 million last year is a slap in the face of struggling Bahamians,” the DNA statement continued.
“A closer look at the reduced tariffs and the affected items for the 2019/20 budget will show that they will have minimal impact on the finances of majority of Bahamians.
“It was noted that the deficit is at its lowest in 10 years and the minister demanded some commendation for this achievement.
“What he failed to mention is that 10 years ago, the government’s revenue was half (about $1.3 billion less) of what it is today, and total expenditure was $1 billion less than it is in 2019.
“Hence, within a decade, successive administrations have significantly increased taxes on the backs of the Bahamian people to fund their insatiable appetite for spending and wastage.
“The current administration is out to lunch and oblivious to the dilemma of Bahamians challenged to make ends meet daily.
“They believe that eliminated tariffs on pencils, crayons and sharpeners is worthy of praise while being convinced that several Bahamians have the [disposable] income to embark on the purchase of new furniture and appliances.
“This follows a recent international report that notes that The Bahamas is the fourth most expensive nation in the world to live in.
“While taxes and fees have continued to rise, so have unemployment figures while the income of average Bahamians [has] remained the same or lowered.”
A recent report by CEOWORLD Magazine revealed that The Bahamas is the fourth most expensive nation in the world to live in.
Following the revelation, Turnquest attributed that high cost of living to the country’s imports and the need to produce more.
The DNA said that they will take a deeper dive into the numbers within the budget in the upcoming days.