The 12 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) hike issue continues to put the government in disfavor with most Bahamians, it appears.
While introducing the debate on the national 2018-2019 Budget in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest tried valiantly to apply logics to what has been put in place for the Bahamian people.
He didn’t sound convincing for the most part. The most logical picture he painted was the necessity for governments to change in midstream sometimes. For instance, it was the finance minister who finally put the clamps on deliberations by his government regarding the increase of salaries for Members of Parliament.
“There is no consideration in this budget for any increases in parliamentary salaries or allowances. There are no plans in the next three years’ forecast,” Turnquest said reportedly in response to questions on Cabinet day, this past Tuesday.
Early in this Free National Movement administration, his leader, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis had used the House of Assembly platform to make the announcement that he intended to lead the effort for salary increases for Members of Parliament.
“I want to put the country on notice that at the next budget, I will come forth with a pay increase for the Members of Parliament. I will establish an independent committee to look at member salaries,” said PM Dr. Minnis last November.
There was a tremendous backlash from the public. Indeed, the negative reaction to the prime minister’s intent to increase his MP salary and that of others in Parliament was quite strong.
Needless to say, the adjustment to MP salaries was not a budget item, when Turnquest made his presentation a week ago Wednesday.
The Dr. Minnis Government pulled back because of the pressure from the public regarding the MP salaries issue.
We say to the PM and his colleagues that it would be politically wise to listen to the public and the financial experts, including the former FNM finance minister Sir William Allen, and take another look at the planned 12 percent VAT increase.
Yesterday in the House of Assembly, Turnquest did not sound as though the government would be inclined to bow to pressure. He kept trying to justify the 2018-2019 budget.
There is no doubt the budget, especially the 12 percent VAT hike issue has become problematic for the government. This is one of those times when a change of position might be the sensible way to go.