By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
GOLDEN Isles MP Vaughn Miller yesterday became the third Free National Movement member of Parliament to publicly oppose the government’s impending value added tax increase.
Mr Miller said he does not support VAT being raised to 12 percent, adding families across the country could not afford the tax hike. Mr Miller said his constituents have advised the increase is too high and should be implemented incrementally.
Mr Miller yesterday joined Centreville MP Reece Chipman and Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine, all members of the Free National Movement, who have opposed the move.
On Monday, Long Island MP Adrian Gibson called on the government to delay the increase to give persons time to prepare.
Mr Miller said in Parliament: “Golden Isles cannot support this increase in VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent. It’s too aggressive, it is too much, it is too soon. I am merely the conduit, I am merely the messenger, I have made a vow to speak as they asked me to speak. I am their servant.
“Personally, I think this form of taxation as has been stated before is regressive and repressive and the poor and middle class will have to carry this burden disproportionately. A more fair taxation to me would be a form of income tax or even payroll tax where you can exempt persons below a particular salary scale. This is too burdensome on the poor and the middle class and small and medium sized businesses.”
Earlier yesterday, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the country is suffering “fiscal illness,” adding it is better for all Bahamians to shoulder paying off the nation’s debt.
Mr Bethel said the VAT increase was in the government’s view “the most painless” way to arrest government debt.
He was responding to questions from the press on a recent Public Domain poll which found that 76 percent of respondents said they oppose the 2018-2019 budget.
Mr Bethel said: “We’ve reached a stage in the Bahamas fiscally in terms of where the government is in terms of its obligation and the fact that nearly $800m has to be used to pay either matured debt or interest on old money borrowed decades ago sometimes that’s already been spent. When you look at the traditional sources of revenue they are not enough to cover these obligations that have been incurred by previous governments including previous FNM governments.
“So we have to do what is right for the Bahamian people. We have to do what is right to restore financial balance and sanity in budgeting in this country. We cannot continue to borrow our way out of debt. It is impossible to borrow your way out of debt and if you cannot borrow your way any further because every time you borrow you increase your debt then you have to find some other way to re-balance your expenditure.
“We think we found the most painless way, even though it is painful, there is no question the 12 percent VAT with this extra 4.5 percent. We all have to pay that including we who make the decisions,” Mr Bethel said.
“It’s painful but no one can get rid of the kind of fiscal illness affecting this country without some degree of pain and its better for all of us to shoulder our equal share of that pain since we’ve all over the decades enjoyed the benefits of government spending based on deficit financing by borrowing borrowing borrowing, to do all the things we have demanded governments to do.”