Are These “VAT Consultants” Really Just Consultants?

VATINFOMany Bahamians – most regrettably the Bahamian media – are not seeing what is happening here with the government’s “VAT Consultants” matter. If our government had originally suggested there be almost no VAT exemptions, and that VAT be applied to ALL FOOD ITEMS, ALL SERVICES EXCEPT RENT & FINANCIAL SERVICES and ALL UTILITIES, the press would have been screaming bloody murder. Yet, two persons from New Zealand have suggested it, the government’s Junior Finance Minister now radically says the government is considering doing this and the media, as if in a trance, is reporting this as though this is not a major shift in the government’s position on what might be taxed under VAT. The consultants strongly pushed this suggestion to us through the media based on what they termed New Zealand’s “few exemptions, one LOW VAT rate” model. The Bahamian media shamefully doesn’t know though that New Zealand does NOT have a low VAT rate – ITS OWN VAT RATE IS NOW 15%.

Do you know who primarily insists that countries leave almost no items untaxed under VAT? THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF). Ask the government who is paying these consultants. If they tell you that we did not pay, and that actually turns out to be true, THEN THE MEDIA OUGHT REALLY ASK ITSELF WHO THESE CONSULTANTS ARE WORKING ON BEHALF OF AND BEING PAID BY. Consultants don’t work for free. Notice that though the government appeared to change its initial July 1, 15% VAT pledge made to the IMF, the IMF did not make a statement on that change even though the IMF said that pledge was the “cornerstone” of The Bahamas’ plan for fiscal recovery. Now all of a sudden, the government says it will look at charging VAT on almost everything in the country when it does introduce it – the very thing it first said it didn’t want to do – but what the IMF always demands countries do. It also says it may reduce the rate – BUT THE VAT RATE IS ALWAYS INCREASED BY COUNTRIES AFTER IT IS FIRST INTRODUCED. Is what we are seeing with the government’s delays and what appears to be the government’s “changes of mind” on VAT, actually the government making changes to ultimately still satisfy the IMF, with these “consultants” being presented to us as simply experts who are giving the government ideas to think about?

WHAT THE MEDIA HAS ALSO IMPORTANTLY MISSED IS THIS: at first the consultants reportedly told the press they were not here to tell the government when to implement VAT, etc. But then the media began reporting the consultants telling the government when to implement VAT, at what rates, how our government needs to radically change its VAT Bill, what items should not be exempt, what to do for the poorer Bahamians because their breadbasket food items would go up in price, what the IMF and ratings agencies are likely to feel about all this, etc. How is an “independent” consultant able to say what the IMF would think about such matters? These “consultants” have further and markedly revealed themselves by inserting themselves into the politics of a sovereign State by making statements against the Bahamas Opposition Party regarding VAT. If you are only a consultant, why and how would it possibly matter to you what The Bahamas via a democratically elected government, may decide to change or not change via VAT in 3 years time? BAHAMIAN MEDIA: have you been speaking to mere consultants all this time?

ALSO NOTICE: The Bahamas is a sovereign country. Whatever the government Constitutionally legislates is its sovereign right. Yet foreign consultants are speaking authoritatively on decisions our Cabinet should make, AND OFFICIALLY ADDRESSED THE MEDIA, BUT NOT A SINGLE MEMBER OF THE CABINET OF THE BAHAMAS WAS PRESENT AS THE HEAD OF THAT PRESS MEETING. They are only supposed to simply be consultants to the Cabinet, right? The consultants have had their own seemingly independent, unchallenged platform given to them by the Bahamian media. How do mere foreign consultants to the Cabinet get that kind of unfettered platform to The Bahamian people? When have you ever seen this happen before on a matter of this great a national significance? They were speaking to the nation FROM THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE’S OFFICE, while the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister himself, was not even in the country. ARE THESE “CONSULTANTS” TRULY JUST CONSULTANTS, and who is truly orchestrating all that we have been seeing over the past weeks and months?

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