Cooper hits at govt after it backtracks on Business Licence Act

Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper charged yesterday that the Minnis administration’s failure to consult with the business community and civil society will be its downfall.

Parliamentarians debated the Business Licence (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2018. The bill was passed shortly after 1 p.m.

It repeals amendments made to the Business Licence Act during the budget exercise. It required businesses to submit audited financial and bank statements.

“Let me say today that it is my honor to point out to this wayward, stubborn government, the error of its ways, as it now scrambles to undo what many, many people told them should have never been done in the first place,” Cooper said.

“It is an honor for me to speak here today, but for the other side, I struggle to identify the honor in wasting the people’s time.

“As we all know, nowadays, BPL ain’t cheap. And yet here we sit, running the people’s AC and burning the people’s light, using the people’s broadcast network to watch this administration go full circle.”

Businesses have complained that amendments made to the Business Licence Act in June were too onerous.

Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the amendments made to the act were intended to foster accurate reporting.

“That was the simple intent of the amendment,” he said yesterday.

“We recognize that there are some practical challenges, particularly with respect to obtaining bank financial statements and complications that may result of co-mingling of personal and business activity.”

Cooper said the opposition supports the new amendments, but chastised the government for not consulting or listening to Bahamians.

“One would think one would get tired of telling this government, ‘I told you so,’” Cooper said.

“But one does not, because, again, I did tell you. And again, you did not listen.

“And again, you end up looking like you don’t know what you’re doing because somewhere in your heads you could not fathom that grown men and women, who have invested lifetimes in many of these ventures you blunder into, have the good sense to know what is good or bad for their business and their interest.

“This was the case with the non-profits bill, the gaming tax. And it is the case with the business license issue before us. Try to spin it any way you want.

“What it is, is clear on the face of it you have egg on your face and you seek to clean it up before any real damage is done.

“You did not listen to the business community on VAT, now you struggle to meet your projected targets.

“You did not listen to the Christian Council on the non-profits, now you seek to rush their participation in a revamped bill before the end of the year.

“You did not listen to us on the Grand Lucayan, now here we are, using the people’s tax dollars to fix up the hotel to make it somewhat attractive to investors.

“Here we are settling with government money, severance costs for those employed for years by a private business, all because you negotiated poorly on the people’s behalf.

“They call that fattening frog for snake in Forbes Hill, Little Exuma, where I am from, Mr. Speaker.”

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018. Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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