Defending the financial provisions within his government’s proposed 2018/19 National Budget, Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis said the fiscal measures are to ensure a sound economic Bahamas for future generations. Making his contribution to the Budget Debate in the House of Assembly on Monday morning, June 18, 2018, the Prime Minister also defended the Value Added Tax increase from 7.5 percent to 12 percent, as was previously announced by the Minister of Finance. “When we tallied up all of the fiscal pressures that are present, we determined that we faced a fiscal gap of some $400 million if we were to achieve the mandated target of a deficit of 1.8 percent of GDP in 2018/19,” the Prime Minister said. He further explained that as such a target is a “critical part” of his government’s plan to restore and bolster credibility, confidence and stronger growth; it simply has to be met. “The hard reality is that there are very few feasible options available, within the timeframe required, to fully address a fiscal gap of that magnitude,” the Prime Minister said.
According to the Prime Minister, the government considered raising VAT from 7.5 percent to 10 percent but determined that was not enough to deal with fiscal pressures it encountered. The government considered raising VAT to 15 percent but determined that would have inflicted “too much hardship” on Bahamians, so it settled on 12 percent, which is determined is necessary to save future generations of Bahamians. “We, therefore, came to the realization that an increase in the rate of VAT to 12 percent was the only viable and reliable option to allow us to deal with all of the fiscal pressures, while also respecting the requirements of the Fiscal Responsibility law,” he added. A significant portion of the new VAT revenues will be redirected back into the economy through the payments of arrears to various creditors, among other things. “We should not lose sight of the fact that the government has been mindful, in the development of its plan to provide tax relief to the most vulnerable in our society,” the Prime Minister said.
He noted that amongst those measures are the elimination of VAT on breadbasket items, medicines, residential property insurance, as well as on electricity and water for a large number of households. “This budget provides hope and opportunity for new homeowners, entrepreneurs, young people, Over-the-Hill communities, and hope and opportunity for our future,” the Prime Minister said. He added, “ The inspiration for my government and for this budget is to leave behind a better, more secure, safer and prosperous country. Our vision and mission are to provide opportunity and hope for current and future generations. Our vision is taking shape.”