Teachers urged to oppose introduction of VAT
The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) is urging teachers not to support plans by the Perry Christie government to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) into the Bahamas.
BUT president Belinda Wilson said the BUT had taken its position after meeting with various stakeholders as well as hearing a presentation of Financial Secretary, John Rolle, on the proposed tax measure.
She said that the BUT had several concerns including the fact that the government has not provided sufficient public education and that “VAT has failed in other Caribbean countries that have similar demographics as the Bahamas”.
The government has already said that the introduction of the VAT would ensure that the Bahamas remains relevant in the context of a changing global environment.
“Furthermore, our current system is one where the burden of taxation falls on a relatively narrow base of goods and makes us particularly vulnerable to economic shocks.
“While these revenue sources have been sufficient to sustain positive real growth in the Bahamian economy in decades past, the effects of the worldwide recession put enormous pressure on the government to spur economic growth, which put additional strain on our country’s resources,” Minister of State for Finance, Michael Halkitis said last year.
But the BUT believes that the proposed 15 per cent VAT is “regressive” and “too high” and that “consumers will bear the burden of this tax as it is a consumer tax”.
The BUT said that the government has not made the case as to how the creation of Central Revenue Agency will improve tax collection and that the salaries of workers have not increased while the cost of living “has increased and is rising daily”.
The BUT said it is recommending that the government does not introduce the VAT as planned on July 1 and that it should examine alternative forms of taxation.
“The government should clearly explain the deficit giving all of the facts and showing statistics about the deficit. The government should give a detailed plan to the citizens on spending cuts for 2014 and beyond,” said the BUT adding the government should seek to collect the “millions of dollars in taxes that are presently outstanding”.
Wilson said she was urging BUT members to sign the petitions against the implementation of VAT, online with the Citizen for a better Bahamas.
“Also make your views known to your Members of Parliament and ask them to “Vote NO” to VAT,” Wilson said, urging teachers to use their influence to get their family, friend and colleagues to sign the petition.
The main opposition Free National Movement (FNM) said it fears the introduction of VAT would seriously impair the already weak, uncompetitive, and struggling Bahamian economy.
The FNM said that the tax would also “harm and diminish the quality of life of every Bahamian”.