My people never cease to amaze me. There is not one single salient thing said on VAT by the two visiting consultants from New Zealand that has not firstly already been said to our government by the IMF, or that has not already repeatedly been said to the government by Bahamians, yet the government and the Bahamian media are behaving as though salient points stated by these gentlemen, with all due respect to them, are brand new or independently consequential. As just one example: there is no VAT Bill and no VAT infrastructure in place. Did Bahamians really need their tax dollars to be used to pay foreign consultants to tell us what we already know and have said, which is that trying to implement this radically new tax in weeks with nothing in place would be “challenging”? And the off-beat goes on.
As for the New Zealanders’ opinions about why The Bahamas should not fear VAT, their country’s economy, administrative and social structure is vastly different from ours (which is what the media should have educated Bahamians about instead of simply repeating every word uttered). For the information of the public, one of the biggest factors in the success of VAT administration is just that – the administrative capacity of a country. Our government cannot even make payroll on time and/or at all, pay its bills, give timely or accurate accounting of public expenditure if given at all, collect existing taxes, maintain public infrastructure or simply manage the public service diligently and properly – meaning, our administrative capacity is a joke. The media ought to have made it very clear why New Zealand has the levels of success it boasts about with respect to VAT so as to educate and inform the public, and not simply regurgitate everything said as though the words of the consultants have the power to stand on their own and create in The Bahamas what does not exist. While the gentlemen are certainly entitled to (and being paid for) their viewpoints, their viewpoints on what we should not fear and why, do not gel with Bahamian realities.
And while we acknowledge the work of the New Zealand consultants, the government should now tell us how much we, the taxpayers, have paid and will pay for their professional services both rendered and pending. The gentlemen did, after all, highlight the critical need for Freedom of Information in this country. Wonder if the government heard that part of their viewpoints?
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