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What Is Going On With These Issues?

question-marksThe following are several of the many issues in the country that the Bahamian people ought to be given answers to:

1 – Visa Scandal

A visa scandal happened once again under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Police were investigating the sale of Bahamian visas to foreign nationals in Haiti, as well as the granting of thousands of our visas to persons in Haiti over a several month period – an amount that greatly exceeds the norm. So far, the Minister responsible has been allowed to get away with refusing to tell the media and Bahamian people what happened and what has been done about this breach of national security, even though he has the all details via a forensic audit done by his Ministry. What is the status of this matter?

2 – The Police Killing of Aaron Rolle

It has now been almost 11 months since the Coroner ruled that police officers unlawfully beat to death Aaron Rolle, a young man who died in police custody due the beating. Why has the Attorney General together with the Commissioner of Police, still not made a decision to put these officers before the criminal courts for this killing?

3 – Alleged Armed Robbery of DPM

Late last year we were told that the Deputy Prime Minister and his wife were robbed at gunpoint in their home. The trial for the accused men was supposed to be fast tracked to the Supreme Court to start on January 29. We’ve heard nothing since. Where are the accused men now, and what’s going on with that case?

4 – VAT

The government promised the IMF that it would launch 15% VAT on July 1. The Prime Minister has since claimed the government may change that. The problem is that since the government already committed to 15% VAT at the start of fiscal year 2014/2015 (July 1), the IMF and international credit agencies are basing their formal assessments of our economy and credit rating on that plan. So if the government does decide to change its commitment, how will the IMF, Moody’s and Standard & Poors handle and/or penalize The Bahamas because of the change?

5 – Foreign Reserves

Our foreign reserves are continuing to decline. Foreign reserves are the amount of US money the country has on hand to pay its bills for what we import (which is almost everything). Our foreign reserves are also what help to keep our dollar on par with the US dollar. The levels have been dropping year by year. Will the government ever get around to truly reducing its spending and attracting solid foreign direct investment to boost our reserves, since building domestic exports does not appear to be a truly plan?

6 – Environmental Levy

Last year, the government started a new tax at Customs called an Environmental Levy, which it claimed would be used for the environmentally sustainable disposal of items taxed. The problem was that it began taking this money from us but never created by law the Environmental Levy Fund where these tax dollars are supposed to go and be administrated. So for going on a year, the levy money has been going into the general Consolidated Fund for the government to spend in on whatever it chooses. Where is the Environmental Levy Fund Bill, how much money has the government taken from us in levy fees since last July, and what has that money been spent on?

7 – Future of Freeport’s Casino

It’s been almost two years now and the government still has not announced who it has chosen to be the new buyer of the Treasure Bay Casino in Grand Bahama; the island’s only resort casino. Every other month the government promises an announcement will happen “in 2 weeks”, but it never does. Who will the new buyers be and how will this impact the workers of that casino?

8 – Real Property Tax, Grand Bahama

As of 2015, the portion of Freeport’s Hawksbill Creek Agreement that provides exemption from real property tax expires. This exemption has served as a key incentive for business investment into Freeport’s economy. What is the position of the government on this matter? Will it extend the expiration period for this exemption, or not? If not, what will this mean for Freeport’s already depressed economy?

Sharon Turner

Posted in Opinions

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