“Liar ... you are a liar,” Free National Movement Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner shouted across the floor of the House of Assembly Wednesday evening.
Butler -Turner was directing her rant toward Prime Minister Perry Christie, who was wrapping up his 2014/2015 Budget presentation.
The Opposition deputy’s outburst came following Christie’s statements referring to VAT and the FNM’s introduction of the taxation.
“As I mentioned at the outset, our fiscal plan is multi-faceted and balanced as it covers all major components of the public finances. Accordingly, revenue modernization and reform are vital to our agenda for fundamental fiscal redress. To that end, we have launched much-needed and overdue reform exercises in the areas of Customs operations and Real Property Tax administration. The Minister of State for Finance elaborated on the very real progress that is being made in these two areas last week. We are also moving ahead with plans to create an efficient, functions-based Central Revenue Administration that will bring together the major domestic tax administrations. The bottom line is that we must, and we will, ensure that we collect what is rightfully owed to Government in respect of existing taxes,”?said Christie.
“As for the further needed enhancement of the revenue yield of our tax system, we have chosen to implement a new Value Added Tax (VAT) as of January 1, 2015. Honorable Members will know, from both the Budget Communication and the recent contribution of the Minister of State for Finance, that the topic of tax reform and VAT has a very long history in this country. I need not repeat it again at this time. I do, however, wish to speak to an issue that surfaced during the debate on the appropriateness of VAT as compared to possible alternatives, such as an income tax.”
The Prime Minister noted that the members of Parliament have expressed their views and the Opposition has taken the position that they are going to oppose, because taxes are being put on poor people.
“Some Members opposite ... I know the Member for Marco City and others have raised the question about the appropriateness of VAT, and held out that Income Tax may be the right thing.
“There is no question, Mr. Speaker, that VAT is the superior tax instrument from an economic efficiency and growth point of view.”
Christie said when his government came to power, Ministry of Finance officials were preparing for VAT.
“And they were preparing for VAT?in the same way you’ve heard them articulate at 15 percent. My government took a wait and see attitude, had a study done by IMF, a study done by the United Kingdom, a study by the IDB all with a view to determine what was the most appropriate intervention to work in this country given the need for revenue.
“The IMF sent teams of people to discuss with those who are stakeholders to let them know they were involved in this exercise. I told the IMF representatives you ought to do more to show the people of our country that this is what you think is necessary in this country and that if I didn’t do it there are consequences to pay.”
He noted that the opposition from the FNM would result in how quickly the government will be able to act.
“This opportunistic craving for political support is just like them and the reason it’s taking so much ... it is piece-by-piece the people of this country must know what we inherited and what we have to do to fight our way out of it.”
It was then that Butler-Turner stood on a point of order “... Mr. Speaker I would like to place on the record of this House, unquestionably, that there was never any VAT that was discussed at a Cabinet level in the previous administration. As he correctly said, the Member for Centerville, it was something the Ministry of Finance was working on; but nothing ever came to the Cabinet of The Bahamas.
“The FNM never made any preparation for VAT and the reality is there was no Cabinet discussion and that is factual.”
Christie said, “it is remarkable that this Member has no idea what her Government was doing.”
As government members added their voices to the debate, the Speaker of the House stood to bring order to the discussions.
Interjecting on a point of order, at this point, was Leader of the Opposition Dr. Hubert Minnis, who supported Butler-Turner and called for Christie to present documents of the same.
It was then Butler-Turner was heard shouting, “liar, you are a liar.”
Published Thursday, June 19, 2014