Leveling The Playing Field For Bahamian Businesses

Despite the economy of The Bahamas not being robust at this present time, big industries still exist in our country.  We have a stable and thriving salt industry, aragonite industry, banking industry, the potential for oil and a telecommunications company that makes millions of dollars annually.  We also have web shop gambling, illegal as it may be, but Bahamian-owned and operated.

The prime minister said recently that the taxes from gambling could bring in $15 million to $20 million dollars per year.  This figure changed several times and has been as high as $40 million annually.   It seems like the government of the day intends to truly tax this industry, if Bahamians vote yes to legalize web shops next year.

I think that the apparently proposed high taxes on this industry are just and given our economic outlook, the government needs as much money as it can get.  But my issue with the high taxation and strong stance from the government stems from our very being as Bahamians; a slavish mentality that gives second-class treatment to its citizens.

The salt and the banking industries have been flourishing in The Bahamas before majority rule.  Mining aragonite in The Bahamas has been thriving for at least 30 years.  The taxes that the government receives from these industries annually are minute and an embarrassment to a people that has so many educated people in leadership positions.  Sure these industries provide important jobs to Bahamians.  But these industries are not Bahamian owned and in my view, they are under-taxed.

The potential for oil drilling in The Bahamas, if it comes on stream, will not provide The Bahamas its fair amount of proceeds.  Published reports cite that we will only receive 12.5 percent from the proceeds of oil.  There has been no talk about nationalizing the oil industry.  We intend to give it away and as usual only secure Bahamian jobs.

The sale of BTC to a foreign element was priced at only $206 million.  Surely Bahamians could have purchased this company and then hire a management company to run its affairs, if the notion persisted that Bahamians were not qualified was true.  I always wonder what the price of BTC would have been had it been sold to Bahamians.

The casino gambling issue is another thriving business where Bahamians have been collecting pennies as opposed to dollars.  When are we going to start to really reap the proceeds from this industry?

My point is that we intend to heavily tax a Bahamian-owned enterprise, while other industries that are foreign owned are just paying bread crumbs to the treasury annually.  There has to be something wrong with this picture.

But our eyes are still closed and for most Bahamians this is a non-issue.  They see nothing wrong with Bahamian businesses not being given the same playing field as foreign-owned companies.  The government said that only a few Bahamian companies will be licensed to host web shop gambling if the referendum passes on January 28, 2013.  And Bahamians are arguing tooth and nail about this.  They are asking why only a few Bahamians will be allowed to continue to get rich from web shop gambling.

I have no issue with this argument, but it has to be in the proper context.  Why aren’t these same Bahamians arguing tooth and nail about the injustices that go on unabated in the salt, aragonite, banking and the hotel casino gambling industries where foreigners are getting richer every day?  Why aren’t they making noise about the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Act, which will allow foreigners to reap most of the rewards from finding treasure in our waters?

I encourage the government of the day to take the same strong stance on tax collection for the aforementioned industries as they have taken on web shop gambling.  But it seems the slave mentality is still rank with life in our country and it exists at all levels of our citizenry.

The late Bob Marley in his famed hit Redemption Song said: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.”  It seems that we intend to keep on keeping on with the continued enslavement of ourselves.  Web shop gambling, by virtue of our blindness as a people to level the playing field for Bahamian businesses, could possibly be our next victim.

By: Dehavilland Moss