By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer said his party will not be moved by the possibility of a political alliance between web shops and the Progressive Liberal Party.
Mr Culmer stressed opposition to the government’s 2018/19 budget was largely fueled by groups seeking to capitalize on the emotional public response to the shock increase in VAT.
He said he fully expected his party will be returned to office at the end of this term.
Mr Culmer said: “When you really look at it, these number guys will never lose, and what they’re trying to do is rally on the 12 percent (VAT) to use that along with their greed to succeed in getting their point across.
“But when you look at the 12 percent and all the other customs duties that are coming down it’s gonna balance out.
“We in this country have been used to everything being handed to us,” he continued, “not from a political point but in order to build a country we all need to contribute. So far the middle class has been carrying a lot of the burden, the thing is we need to understand is the government’s intention to reduce high cost of living to not just middle class but the most unfortunate among us.
“The intent with the 12 percent is, might as well bite the bullet,” he said.
Mr Culmer spoke to The Tribune about the strong public backlash to the proposed increases ahead of Thursday’s ‘Keep Ya Corned Beef’ March.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Parliament Square to protest the proposed 60 percent increase in value added tax and a new sliding scale tax on web shops.
Mr Culmer said: “They’re playing on the emotions of the Bahamian people. I expect the numbers folks to spend big money to get their message across. I suspect they will pay people to come out to protest, they’re good at marketing.
“So we all gotta come to grips and say what is best for the country, do we want to continue to go down the road paying deficits or to get our bills current and get country moving in the right direction.”
Seeking to make a clear separation between the campaign tactics of the two major political parties, Mr Culmer claimed the Free National Movement would never seek to exploit the emotions of the public.
Mr Culmer said: “We are trying to educate the people, the FNM never takes advantage of the masses. Our job as the government is to be responsible, to educate persons why things are happening and to ensure we understand. The PLP for years they drive on emotions, if you notice there is no industrial unrest during the PLP administration. The first thing, it’s because the PLP uses our workers at their will and pleasure. It must stop.
“I believe at the end of the day Bahamians are going to see the benefits that the FNM is attempting to do,” he continued, “I believe the FNM will be the government again, the country is moving in the right direction.”
The FNM has been raked in recent months for “eating its words” on major issues it admonished the former Christie administration over, most notably, Baha Mar, the Spy Bill, and the introduction of VAT.
Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer told The Tribune last month she was shocked at how much the Minnis administration has “come around” on several policies and strategies it criticised while in opposition.