FNM Blasts New Airport Tax
By Oswald T. Brown, The Bahama Journal
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - Free National Movement MP for High Rock Kenneth Russell has blasted a new fee collection procedure that was implemented by the Grand Bahama Airport Company yesterday.
Calling it a "new tax," Mr. Russell condemned the Progressive Liberal Party Government for allowing the Grand Bahama Airport Company "to shove this tax down the throats of us Bahamians."
"The Grand Bahama Airport Company announced that effective yesterday, international airlines using Grand Bahama Airport will be forced to pay a $10 facility fee which will be passed on to Bahamians traveling abroad, in addition to the already high traveling fees which Bahamians must pay for travel," Mr. Russell said at a press conference at FNM headquarters Thursday.
Also attending the press conference were Lindy Russell, FNM Member of Parliament for Eight Mile Rock, and David Thompson and David Wallace, former Grand Bahama-based Members of Parliament, who were defeated in the May 2 general elections.
Noting that as of September 1 Bahamians traveling abroad from Grand Bahama Airport will now pay a total of $54.00 in taxes to travel, Mr. Russell said, "This is not fair to the traveling Bahamian public in Grand Bahama."
Whether or not Bahamians will be affected by the new fee collection procedure is uncertain, however, based on a letter sent by Airport Director Randy Robb to airline officials, a copy of which was obtained by The Bahama Journal.
In the letter, dated August 27, Mr. Robb states, "Until further notice, ticketed passengers, age six and above, traveling on a Bahamian passport will only pay the Bahamas departure tax of $15.00 at the ticket counter prior to departure. All other ticketed international passengers will pay the $15.00 Bahamas departure tax and $5.00 airport security fee at the ticket counter prior to departure."
The letter noted that the $5.00 airport security fee, an increase of $2.00 over the current security fee, applies "to all ticketed passengers, other than those traveling on a Bahamian passport."
At his press conference, Mr. Russell said the airport company tried for the last two years under the FNM administration to "impose this new tax on Bahamians, and each time the FNM Government denied their request and the FNM Government refused to give approval."
"Now under the new PLP Government, this high increase is announced without any discussion with the people whom it affects and without the PLP Government saying a word to the people of Grand Bahama," Mr. Russell said.
Pointing out that a new airport is yet to be built, he added, "This new tax is unjustified. Bahamians are being asked to pay more for the use of the same old airport facility. This cannot be right."
The High Rock MP said the PLP is "famous for allowing the Grand Bahama Port Authority to increase taxes on Bahamians."
"Under the PLP in 1991, the Grand Bahama Airport Company initiated a $3.00 additional security tax on airport users," Mr. Russell said. "We protested this increase then, and as soon as the FNM came to power in 1992, the FNM Government forced a rollback of this tax and relieved Bahamian travelers from paying this tax."
He demanded that the PLP Government "do no less" and called for "a rollback of this new $10.00 increase which the Airport Company is trying to hide by having the airlines include this new tax in the ticket cost for travelers."
"We demand from the PLP Government an explanation as to why the Airport Company is being allowed to act in this fashion to the detriment of our economy and our traveling public in Grand Bahama," Mr. Russell said.
He called on the people of Grand Bahama "to lock hearts and hands with us in protest of this unjust tax and to support any action or demonstration it may take to lift this burden off the backs of our people."
"In the next few days we will be meeting with the Airport Company and the Grand Bahama Port Authority to try and resolve this matter," Mr. Russell said.