June 20, 2017
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis charged yesterday that the 2017/2018 budget is "steeped" with financial benefits for families, other loved ones and friends of those in government, but is oppressive for the poor people in The Bahamas.
"When the FNM says it's the people's time, we are constrained to ask who are these people?" Davis said as he contributed to the budget debate in the House of Assembly.
"We do know that you now propose to significantly reduce the import taxes on maintenance parts for aircraft, paint supplies, sea vessels, salmon, and on parts for washing and drying machines and on asphalt.
"Let's see who they are now taking care of...Some people, those wealthy enough to own airlines, paint supply stores and wash houses, must now be extremely pleased that it is indeed their time.
"This budget offers no relief to the ordinary person. Instead, this budget washes you, presses you, and cleans you. It is indeed the people's time. But the identity of those people are coming into sharper focus."
Davis borrowed a line from Superwash commercials. That business is owned by Minister of Tourism Dionisio D'Aguilar.
D'Aguilar rose on a point of order and accused Davis of misleading the House.
He said the duty for industrial washing machines is 45 percent, while the duty for residential washers and dryers (under 25 pounds) is five percent.
"So, let's just get that clear; Superwash ain't getting no benefit from this budget," he said.
He acknowledged, however, that Superwash does have a few washers that attract the lesser duty rate.
Davis noted that he never pointed to the duty on the machines themselves, but on the parts for washers and dryers.
The opposition leader said the tax exemptions are glaring, particularly in the face of the government's abandonment of its key promises.
He questioned when the government will lower taxes on breadbasket items and offer free tuition to qualifying college students.
He said those are the things Bahamians want to see in the Free National Movement's budget.
Moving to the state of the economy, Davis insisted that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) did not leave the economy in a wheelchair.
He pointed to the tax exemptions.
"If the proverbial cupboards are bare, as the member for East Grand Bahama (Finance Minister Peter Turnquest) says, then why is the government finding it necessary to offer such generous tax rebates to the wealthy and those most able to pay taxes?" he asked.
Davis added, "In the face of the slurs and cheap innuendo made by the FNM, the data, the evidence, these key indicators, the hard facts, they all speak to the prudent fiscal management of our PLP administration."
Davis said yesterday that damage resulting from Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew, in addition to Baha Mar's bankruptcy filing, accounted for a sharp increase in public expenditure and a sharp decline in government revenue.
In its latest report, international rating agency Moody's projected a "significantly worse" fiscal outlook for the country.
"This indicates that The Bahamas' fiscal position is much weaker than we had previously expected, even after accounting for the slippage caused by Hurricane Matthew," Moody's said.
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News date : 06/20/2017 Category : Nassau Guardian Stories