EDITOR, The Tribune.
I believe that the main bone of contention that the Keep Ya Corned Beef We Marching protestors and rabble have with the Minnis administration is its proposed sliding scale tax on web shop operators.
Had the Free National Movement (FNM) government never come up with the tax hike proposal on gaming, the march on Rawson Square would have never occurred.
The plan to raise VAT at 60 percent was, in my opinion, a secondary matter to the overwhelming majority of protestors. I believe it was the Bahamas Gaming Operators Association (BGOA) which spearheaded the event.
The BGOA is sounding the alarm over the possible loss of 2,000 jobs in its sector.
According to the Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar, the seven web shop chains collectively made $200m in 2017. Five hundred million dollars passed through their hands that same year.
D’Aguilar further stated that the seven web shop bosses made $150m in salary and bonuses over the last three years. The 2,800 workforce that the BGOA is purportedly fighting tooth and nail for collectively made $96m over that same period. I decided to do my own calculations and was not surprised to discover that that $96m, when divided between exactly 2,800 individuals, comes to a grand total of $219. That’s $9 more than the national minimum wage of $210. On the other hand, the $150m between the seven web shop bosses is $21,428,571.42. While I believe this figure is a gross underestimation of what BGOA bosses actually accumulated over the past three years, it is nonetheless impressive. It would mean that BGOA bosses earned $7,142,857 a year, while their workers made $11,388.
The gaping disparity between BGOA bosses and their workforce is pronounced. In fact, it reminds me of the scenario between Charles Dickens’ fictional characters Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit in his A Christmas Carol novel. While Scrooge was filthy rich, his employee, Crachit, was dirt poor due to him being underpaid.
The figures listed above only confirms what I pointed out before in this newspaper about the demographic of the BGOA workforce. The overwhelming majority of web shop workers are young women. Most educated and middle-aged Bahamians would never consider working in web shops, as the salaries being offered are a pittance.
That is why I have chosen to classify web shop jobs as entry level jobs, which are really no different from low paying fast food eatery jobs.
With the rising cost of living, it is darn difficult to keep one’s head above the water on a $219 a week salary in this country.
Rather than protest the proposed sliding scale tax, the 2,800 workforce of the BGOA should have marched for higher wages and other benefits such as health, dental, life and vision insurance; as well as a retirement and pension plan. Even if the BGOA follows through with its threat to shed the jobs of 2,000 Bahamians, I believe that a robust economy is more than capable of absorbing these displaced workers.
June 17, 2018.