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Chamber CEO: If budget is revisited, fully consult private sector

Chamber CEO: If budget is revisited, fully consult private sector

Stressed that govt should have never based its revenue plan so heavily on gaming houses taxes

Edison Sumner.

Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) CEO Edison Sumner said yesterday that the government should have never based its revenue plan for this fiscal year so heavily on taxes collected from gaming houses, and asserted that if the budget is revisited as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said would happen, the government must consult the private sector on how to dig itself out of the financial mess it’s in.

“These are things we talked about before and we brought this to the attention of the government before, that they cannot be putting all of their eggs in one basket and there has to be some diversification of how you raise your taxes and it cannot be contingent on just trying to raise money from the gaming industry,” Sumner said when asked by Guardian Business about the deputy prime minister’s comments that government will have to recast the budget to account for the delay in tax collection from the gaming industry.

“And even with that being the case, we’ve said before that while people may not support the gaming sector, you still have to be fair and equitable in how you deal with them, because that is still a business as well.”

Turnquest said earlier this week that a lawsuit filed against the government by web shop owners could see the government lose at least $8 million in revenue as of result of what could be a prolonged delay in the implementation of the new sliding-scale tax.

According to Turnquest, a delay in collection and implementation will obviously have cash flow and expenditure implications and no doubt will result in a recasting of the budget to account for the losses.

Until the matter is heard on October 5, the government stands to lose out on collections for July, August and September, at a cost of approximately $2.8 million per month.

During the budget exercise in May, the deputy prime minister said the tax on the gaming houses, along with an increase in value-added tax (VAT), would cause the government to be able to balance the budget in three years.

“We came into this budget really with high hopes that the government was putting these measures in place to bring this whole thing down and stick with its three-year plan to balance the budget, but now it looks like everything is going to be hit into a tailspin. It’s a matter of restrategizing how this gets done,” Sumner said.

“And this time around if they are going to be revisiting this whole idea of looking at the budget again, then I would seriously advise the government to consult fully with the private sector before they do anything else. Because there are some great ideas that are coming from the private sector that I think can help the government, but they’ve got to be open to having that discussion with the private sector before anything else gets done, not after the fact.”