Govt looking at overflight fees, aragonite contracts for revenue

The government is looking to overflight fees and dormant aragonite mining contracts, among other options, for unexpected revenue in its 2020/2021 national budget moving forward, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday, adding that the government will not divest itself of its stakes in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Aliv just yet.

Turnquest, who made the remarks during the question and answer session of the Ministry of Finance’s budget communication press conference, said the government is looking at three areas to raise new revenue and unbudgeted revenue, including mining, overflight fees and cruising and fishing permits, amidst an expected $900 million revenue shortfall.

Turnquest said the country could have the long-awaited overflight fee structure in place by the beginning of 2021.

“We’re optimistic that we will see some revenue from overflight fees that we have been talking about for a couple of years. We have some indication that by January 2021 we will start to see that whole process finalized and we will start to receive some revenue from overflight fess,” said Turnquest.

“The other area that is interesting is the number of active licenses for mining in the country. There are no active aragonite mining licenses in the country at the moment. The Ministry of the Environment is going to start renewed talks in respect to taking advantage of this asset and we’ll see. Hopefully we can come to some agreements with the exiting licenses, as well as look at new licenses, so that we could take advantage of that natural resource also.”

Turnquest added that the government is launching an online portal for the registration of charter, yacht and cruising permits.

He added that those fees, as well as fishing licenses and the purchase of vanity license plates from the Road Traffic Department, will provide unexpected and unbudgeted revenue.

“The Road Traffic Department is launching a vanity plate initiative, which won’t give us a tremendous amount of revenue, but we expect to have a decent return from that,” said Turnquest.

He stressed that the government is not going to sell its shares in BTC or Aliv during this current economic period, given the state of the market.

“The current market, with the economy being the way it is at the moment, we would not be motivated to try and release our share holdings in any of these entities at the moment,” Turnquest said.

“We just don’t believe we will get the kind of return that we can get once the economy starts to make a recovery. At the moment, we continue to hold our positions and continue to support these entities as best we can, to ensure they remain viable and in fact prosper as the market recovers.”

The government expects revenue falloff from most of its primary earners in the 2020/2021 budget year, though it will seek to put in place revenue enhancement measures and improve compliance and enforcement.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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