James Smith, former minister of state for finance during the Christie administration, says that tax evasion and avoidance has become “a national pastime”.
Smith recently told a local newspaper that most Bahamians do not understand that the high level of government services they desire depends on them paying their due taxes.
Most Bahamians would wonder what high level of services Mr Smith is referring to.
Traffic lights are always out, hospitals are falling apart, the police force is all but useless, roads are full of potholes, garbage pick-up is often ignored, government corporations are poorly run, the legal system is riddled with corruption and also dysfunctional, property rights are enforced only for the rich, etc., etc., etc.
Mr Smith was attempting to highlight a fundamental disconnect common to so many Bahamians – the fact that they wanted ‘big government’ and a high level of public sector service provision but did not want to pay for it.
“In the Bahamas, we have a history of avoiding taxes. We’ve learned to do that quite well, and even the authorities who ought to be following up do so in lackadaisical fashion,” the former finance minister told Tribune Business.
“We don’t understand the full nexus between this and the Government’s ability to provides services such as health, education and welfare. The only way to do that is through the proper payment of due taxes, and I don’t see the connection.
“We want the services but don’t accept we have to pay for these things, so our pastime is finding ways and means to avoid the tax guys.”
Perhaps if government really delivered the services, Bahamians would not mind paying taxes.