Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Thompson: PLP Proposed VAT Reduction Will Destabilize Economy

Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson is hitting back at PLP Chairman Chester Cooper, asserting that Cooper’s claim to reduce Value Added Tax, if elected, is “rank populist politicking.”

Thompson said to reduce VAT when the Bahamas is has been hit with an economic falloff will cause the Bahamas to lose more than $100 million.

Why it matters

Cooper unveiled his party’s economic plan on Sunday stating that the PLP will reduce VAT to 10 percent for one year then review the rate after the year is expired.

The big picture

7.5 percent VAT was implemented by the PLP in 2015, after reconsidering its original proposal of 15 percent. The PLP’s reasoning has been that the introduction of a VAT system will increase government revenue at a time when it was declining.

Then State Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis said it was a “needed reform” to “protect the economy.”

When the Free National Movement came to power, it increased VAT to 12 percent but removed the tax from breadbasket items.

Thompson says the proposed reduction will destabilize the economy

“The Opposition’s plan would lead to a dramatic fall-off in revenue likely in excess of $100 million during their proposed 12 month period, at a time when the country’s fiscal resources are under tremendous strain and the needs for government to support social and economic programmes are even more pronounced.

“The Government cannot operate by trial and error. The 12 month period will only destabilize the economy causing the PLP to have no choice but to return VAT to 12% the following year or increasing to 15%. The country needs stability and consistency.”

“A 2% cut in VAT does not guarantee that additional spending needed and will not be sufficient to achieve the amount of economic activity to replace the loss in revenue. It would be impossible for the Government to maintain its spending levels with that level of loss in revenue. It is completely irresponsible.”

Why Chester Cooper Is Against Exuma’s Strict Measures

After Prime Minister Hubert Minnis implemented restricted measures for Exuma following a rise in COVID-19 cases, area representative Chester Cooper is speaking out against one aspect of the measure that he believes will “dramatically shift the state of everyday life on Exuma”– the weekend lockdowns.

“While the rapid rise in cases on Exuma is very troubling and some restrictive measures may be warranted to slow the spread, I do not support full weekend lockdowns.

“Had anyone in Cabinet bothered to ask my advice, I would have been happy to assist,” he said.

Why it matters

  • Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said there is an exponential increase in cases on that island following the October holiday weekend and two major social events.
  • Over the past week, Exuma has recorded 30 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • As of Tuesday, the 10th of November, a total of 79 positive cases of COVID-19 were recorded on the island of Exuma. Of that number, 28 cases are active, two are hospitalized, and there has been one COVID-19 related death.

Reasons why Chester Cooper says he opposes weekend lockdowns

  • They are too blunt an instrument for the situation as it stands.
  • Exuma is just now experiencing some relief on the tourism front after months of lingering in the economic doldrums.
  • Exuma has international flights now coming in from Florida and North Carolina on Saturdays.
  • And Exuma was experiencing serious interest in domestic travel from New Providence before the quarantine was reinstated.
  • Not only will this damage our brand internationally, but it will further starve Exuma’s economy of vital tourism dollars.

What PM Minnis says

Dr. Minnis acknowledged that it was short notice as the measures come into effect on Thursday, but he said the measure is a critical part of the strategy to contain and to control the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country. He said this measure is designed to stop possible spikes on other islands because of individuals who may be COVID 19 positive, quickly moving to other islands.

What’s the plan?

The strategies employed by our health officials are as follows:

  • When there is an exponential increase in new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over a short period of time, restrictive measures will be put in place to mitigate the spread in that location.
  • The number of health officials on Exuma has increased, including a team consisting of contact tracers and members of the surveillance unit will be deployed to Exuma on Friday for further assessment.

Is Vaughn Miller Fighting for Political Survival?

Golden Isles Member of Parliament Vaughn Miller announced in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that he will become a member of the Progressive Liberal Party, having left the Free National Movement in 2019 to become an independent candidate.

Miller who is also a pastor of Resurrection Ministries International Church, said he sought consultation with God, his wife and church leaders before he made his decision to join the opposition party.

Pastor Vaughn Miller at Resurrection Ministries International. Photo credit: FB

Miller has offered to run 2022 in the Golden Isles constituency for the PLP, and will now be seated near the opposition in the HOA until the next general election.

Vaughn Miller’s history in Golden Isles

Vaughn Miller in 2017 as an FNM candidate. Photo credit: FB

Miller won the Golden Isles constituency in 2017 by 3,374 votes, beating PLP’s Michael Halkitis by 56 percent of the vote.

But when Miller left the FNM in 2019, he lost the support of the area’s association.

The association’s president Brian Brown said Miller was never physically or mentally in the constituency, even before he resigned from the party. “After the firing for him voting against the VAT, things went downhill and that was it.”

Miller was fired as a parliamentary secretary in 2018, after he voted against the increase of Value Added Tax.

Brown said the constituents were disappointed in Miller’s representation, after giving him their full support in the May 2017 election.

Brown has now become the FNM’s candidate for Golden Isles and has began campaigning for the 2022 general election.

Where Miller stands with the PLP? He once called the PLP corrupt

Miller’s career as a politician began in 2017, as his party campaigned against the “inprecedented corruption” of the PLP, as they exposed evidence of financial mismanagement, neligence and nepotism.

As Miller jumped ship to the PLP, a new question arises. What changed about the PLP? The PLP has not yet proven that they have changed and that they can lead the Bahamas . Why now?

Was the switch for political survival? Miller can now be expected to be used as a prop by the PLP.

Miller in his speech during the debate, never gave his reasoning for joining the opposition, only to say he talked with Opposition Leader Philip Davis and that he always desired “to help people.”

“It is time to do what is best for me,” Miller said.

Davis in a press statement, said, “I have been speaking to Miller for some time. I think his experience mirrors that of many Bahamians who wanted to believe the promises made by the Free National Movement in 2017, but who came to realize that his governemnt has neither the intention nor the capacity to keep those promises.”

Chester Cooper described Miller’s switch as a “jubilant day.”

“A glad day, a glorious day as we welcome Miller to the party,” whom he said he always admired.

What’s next for Vaughn Miller?

Miller’s chances of winning in the 2022 as an independent candidate was slim to none, as Bahamians rarely select independent representatives for their constituency.

His chances of winning as a PLP candidate is also slim.

Although Miller offered to run as a PLP candidate for Golden Isles, it is yet to be seen if he is the party’s strongest candidate for the area in 2022.

Will his constituency follow his path to the PLP or will it remain an FNM stronghold in the next general election?

Miller will face an uphill challenge from the FNM candidate for Golden Isles.


Featured Image: The Tribune

Neither PLP nor DNA Are Prepared to Side With Minnis Until He Makes These Changes

As the population and businesses celebrate the reopening of the country, the Progressive Liberal Party and the Democratic National Alliance want more.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced the reopening of the country after reversing the 7-day full lockdown in an unexpected move. However, the PLP said it is uninspired by the move and the DNA remains neutral, only to say, it ‘welcomes’ the reversal.

The opposition parties said Dr. Minnis must do more to win their applause.

Make an apology

Leader of the DNA Arinthia Komolafe said the prime minister’s address on Monday should have included an expression of regret for his handling of the pandemic. Komolafe suggested that Dr. Minnis was responsible for heightening the virus in the country.

“We note that the PM squandered an opportunity to apologize to the Bahamian people for his bad decisions ranging from a lack of preparation for the virus, double standards which discriminated against Bahamians, premature opening of our borders for international travel from a COVID hotspot, the 72-hour test exemption for returning residents and the announcement of a complete lockdown without notice last week,” she said.

Come with a plan

PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said Dr. Minnis should have given an explanation on the government’s plan to restart the economy. Cooper said while he is “happy” for the businesses that can reopen, he said the daily announcements are not enough.

“If the government has a plan to exit from this crisis, they need to share it. A comprehensive plan to manage this crisis is long past due.

“To simply say we will soon hear what it is, is simply not good enough, almost six months into the crisis.

“This day-by-day improvisation by the government is not working. People can see for themselves that the government is just winging it,” Cooper said.

Komolafe agreed with Cooper.  She said Dr. Minnis should have included a detailed plan for the future.

“The national address again contained no comments about an economic stimulus package, rental assistance, expanding the social safety net for struggling Bahamians, and a defined plan for the way forward,” she said.

Expand the competent authority

Cooper called on Dr. Minnis to form a committee of authorities to “review the scientific studies, learn from success stories of other nations, put best practices into place, and get the virus under control”.

Komolafe said her party will provide further recommendations and will put forward a revised reopening plan for the competent authority’s consideration.