Opposition Leader Michael Pintard yesterday wrote a letter to Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Philip Davis saying the opposition is “dismayed” that the Ministry of Finance issued a memorandum that would seek to implement a change to the tariff for pleasure vessels outside of the legal requirement that any such adjustments be approved by Parliament.
“We are further dismayed that the financial secretary is indicating that he is operating under a direction — a direction which could only come from the ministerial level,” Pintard stated.
He was making reference to a June 23 memorandum from Financial Secretary Simon Wilson to the customs comptroller saying that he is directed to advise that as a result of the change in the rate of duty on pleasure vessels “inadvertently being omitted” from the budget measure sheet, the Customs Department is now instructed to treat pleasure craft as duty-free “until the subsequent amendment to the Tariff Act is done during the next budget exercise”.
Pleasure craft attract — or attracted — a 10 percent rate of duty.
The memo noted the change is effective immediately.
Asked yesterday to respond to the opposition questioning the legality of the move, Davis said, “This is all part and parcel of a big picture of growing our blue economy.
“Now, the question as to whether the manner in which the omission during the course of the budget debate, we’ll have to look at that to see how it fell through the cracks and how best to resolve it and I’ll do that now that I’m home.
“I’ll sit down with the minister of economic affairs, financial secretary, my permanent secretary, the deputy prime minister and we will work out what has to be worked out to achieve the goal that we think is necessary for the development of our blue economy.”
In his letter to the prime minister, Pintard said, “We further demand to know why such an initiative would be executed without informing the public on the measure and the policy rationale for the same.
“We fully understand why any policymaker would be embarrassed to put forth such a measure to give a tax break to wealthy boat owners while asking Bahamian pensioners to pay VAT on medicine. But that shame does not give the government license to attempt to change tax policy by stealth.”
Pintard added, “Rest assured that we will avail ourselves of every legitimate channel to press the matter until this untenable decision is reversed.”
When he addressed the matter yesterday, the prime minister said, “I did speak in my communication about reducing taxes on yachts. We are intending to develop and build the yacht registry to permit them to be able to house themselves in The Bahamas.
“Housing in The Bahamas means more for marinas; housing in The Bahamas means more opportunities for Bahamians to be engaged more directly in that maritime industry. As you recall, one of our planks is to develop the blue economy.”
The prime minister addressed the issue during a press conference at Lynden Pindling International Airport upon his return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.