Govt’s paralysis as gas prices rise

Last week, a schedule of gas prices based on a number of main suppliers around the Family Islands was posted online by The Nassau Guardian and circulated on social media.

Based on our conversations with several service station operators, drivers in Mayaguana are paying as much as $9 per gallon for gas, while in Acklins, Andros, Cat Island and Crooked Island, prices are at or above $8.50 per gallon.

On most other Family Islands, the price per gallon ranges at over $7.50. Only in Grand Bahama are drivers paying around $6.36 per gallon, which is less than prices at the three major petroleum suppliers’ pumps in the capital that range from $6.97 to $7.39.

Gas prices in New Providence exceed average prices in Canada ($6.60) and the US ($5.19 per gallon).

The price of gas is seriously biting into household incomes, and fishermen’s incomes, most especially so in the Family Islands. Some relief is urgently needed.

We noted earlier in this space that in response to rising gas prices and in an effort to cushion its impact upon its people, the government in Barbados had capped the dollar amount of taxes payable for gas for a six-month period, while in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the government reduced the tax on fuels by 25 percent.

The government of The Bahamas has done no such thing. Instead, the deputy prime minister tells us to conserve as the government “anticipates that the prices are going to be escalated for the foreseeable future”.

Tax on gasoline in The Bahamas is $1.06 per gallon, plus value-added tax (VAT) of 10 percent on costs and freight, and one cent per gallon for gasoline sold at the pump.

The government is reaping a VAT bonanza on gasoline, food and other imports while it has failed to offer any relief to help bring down the price of gas at the pump.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government last October disregarded the fuel hedge for Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) fuel left in place by the Free National Movement government.

Now, as fuel prices surge, the government has had a revelation. It is going to put the fuel hedge back in place. This is late in the game. The price for fuel on the international market is considerably higher than it was in October. Whatever hedge is negotiated cannot erase the increased price for fuel that is occurring today.

The government put in place special provisions in the Family Island Development Encouragement Act to waive customs duties and even VAT in some instances on a myriad of building materials, finishes, vehicles and furniture to compensate residents in those islands for the higher costs incurred by them on freight and transportation. Yet this government has not seen its way clear to assist those same Family Islanders with regard to exorbitant increases in the cost of gasoline even while it studiously avoids complying with the Procurement Act in the award of contracts.

While there have been unjustifiable increases in the number of overseas missions, consulates and postings, a lot of international travel with sizable delegations, unseemly, excessive and unnecessary political hirings at above public service salary scales, but below qualification requirements that the government has sought to couch in good public relations, the Davis administration has been slow to act on critically important issues.

Matters like taxes on gas, the BPL fuel hedge, a rate increase for the National Insurance Board (NIB), and outstanding public sector labor issues remain outstanding. And after much talk about its commitment to a minimum wage increase, that, too, awaits action.

During last year’s general election campaign, the Davis-led PLP led many to believe that it was prepared to govern. In office, the Davis administration appears to be suffering from a paralysis.

Dithering, they have been slow out of the gate on critically essential matters.

Governments have long been accused of being talk shops. It will take some real action to free the current government from that appellation.

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