December 05, 2012
The Coconut Grove Business League (CGBL) yesterday rejected the government's Road Work Compensation Programme slated to start next week. The league will meet this week to discuss their counter proposal, according to spokesman Ethric Bowe, who said the league will be advocating for legal and fair proceedings. Mr Bowe added that the league will continue its plans to refile for damages in the Supreme court.
In the lead up to the 2012 general elections, the then opposition Progressive Liberal Party promised to fully compensate all businesses affected by the New Providence Road Improvement Project. However, Mr Bowe said the government’s statement outlining benefits had “nothing in that can be defined as compensation.” “That’s not compensation,” said Mr Bowe, “that just won’t do. They sent the initial proposal that’s fine, now we’re gonna send a counter proposal. “What they are doing now, I don’t even know what they are calling this.
They are trying to get you to pay yourself from your own pocket.” According to a government release sent out yesterday, applications for the programme will be made available today at the Ministry of Finance and on its website. Components of the plan include: the creation of a deferred electricity payment plan; discounted advertising with the Broadcasting Corporation; customs duty deferment; a micro loan facility; and business license and property tax rebates. Applicants should expect to receive a certificate of enrolment detailing the level of assistance granted within 10 working days, and this certificate will be used to access benefits at various government agencies.
“Every situation” said Mr Bowe, “is different, so the compensation approach should be based on the situation. “Businesses that have already closed down, how can they benefit from an electricity discount? Like they say with Romney it ain’t adding up.” Another feature the league expects will generate financing for compensation and relieve strain on the government cash flow is “customs credits”, which would allow businesses to sell their tax exemptions to recoup losses. As the league braces itself for another round in the Supreme Court, and if necessary the Privy Council, some members of the business community have criticised the futility of the now two-year-long crusade.
Last month, Superwash president Dionisio D’Aguilar urged the private sector to take a “realistic” approach and accept the government’s package. While he acknowledged the compensation offering as insufficient, Mr D’Aguilar told Tribune Business that the government will “never make right what they did wrong” with the road project and urged the private sector to settle the matter.
However, Mr Bowe maintained yesterday that the matter must set a precedent in the country to discourage unlawful behavior by the government. “We need to cement this precedent in Bahamian law so that in the future the government will find it necessary to behave lawfully. “It’s not the big businesses at stake,” he said, “it’s the small businesses that need so much to be treated fairly. Rich people can take care of themselves.” The CGBL will meet in the Golden Gates Super Value conference room on Friday at 7pm. The deadline for submission to the government compensation programme is January 18.
Click here to read more at The Tribune