Finding a solution to the petroleum retailers’ dilemma

Dear Editor,

I was concerned after reading in The Nassau Guardian that “both the prime minister and Simon Wilson are prepared to adjust the model that dictates retailers’ profits”.

Those were the unsubstantiated claims of an official from the Bahamas Petroleum Retailers Association (BPRA), who was appealing to Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis to grant his organization’s request.

I intentionally used the word “unsubstantiated” because, as far as I know, Prime Minister Philip Davis hasn’t announced to the Bahamian people that he favors what the members of the BPRA are badgering the state for.

Furthermore, I question the veracity of the claims based on what Halkitis stated emphatically in the Senate last week.

If the BPRA has its way, Bahamians will once again be faced with another cost increase.

I was informed recently that my homeowners insurance will be going up.

On average, I am currently spending between $250 and $300 on groceries each week.

The utilities have gone up, also.

There seems to be a concerted effort to price Bahamians out of their own country. But I digress.

Halkitis’ reluctance to grant permission to gas station operators to increase their profit margins may be due to the fact that the Bahamian middle-class is maxed out by insurance and utility companies, grocery stores and the state; never mind Bahamians earning minimum wage.

Bahamians are already bracing for an increase in their National Insurance Board (NIB) contributions.

We are being hit left and right. But I have a suggestion to Mr. Halkitis and his Cabinet colleagues.

What they can do is simply take 20 cents from the $1.72 the government collects from each gallon of fuel sold. That way, the Davis administration would avoid adding another financial burden on the backs of struggling Bahamians who are already fuming.

If the BPRA has its way, the government would be committing political suicide.

Lost in the ongoing discussion is the fact that when the Christie administration sold the value-added tax (VAT) narrative to the Bahamian people, ahead of its implementation in January 2015, it did so by stating that The Bahamas will eventually eliminate duty or border taxes because of the World Trade Organization it was seeking to join.

It’s been eight years since the advent of VAT and no one is talking about ending duty taxes anymore.

Let me break down my proposal for the readership.

The state collects $15,480 in taxes from a 9,000-gallon tanker of petroleum.

If the state forks over 20 cents of the $1.72 to gas station retailers, it will then collect $1.52 per gallon or $13,680 per tanker.

As for the gas station retailers, who are currently collecting 54 cents per gallon or $4,860 per tanker, they will then collect 74 cents a gallon or $6,660 instead.

I believe that this is a loss that the government must bear, if it wants to avoid further angering an already disgruntled population.

There’s no more wiggle room for a tax increase without further infuriating the Bahamian people.

As a politician, Halkitis understands this.

He knows that he cannot manage the Bahamian economy with the mindset of the ruthless Jesse Livermore, the so-called Great Bear of Wall Street.

There has to be a balance.

Kevin Evans

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