MP calls for higher web shop taxation

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

Web shops should be taxed even higher than contemplated in the budget due to their impact on his constituency and other Out Islands, Long Island's MP argued yesterday.

Adrian Gibson, during his contribution to the 2018-2019 budget debate, said the "expansion and proliferation of web shops throughout The Bahamas has caused concern".

"Frankly, on islands such as Long Island, where we have 15 to 20 web shops, local communities have been negatively impacted in many cases. Frankly, I think that web shop taxes could be taxed even higher than they are currently pegged. When contrasted to the UK and elsewhere, these operations are being taxed on the lower end," he argued.

Mr Gibson added: "Greater regularisation is needed in the local gaming industry. What's more, I do not yet know of mechanisms in place to assist persons who develop gambling addictions. Have the gaming houses established such centres?

"That said, the creation of a national lottery would yield far greater returns than web shops, where the profits are concentrated in the hands of a few. The establishment of a national lottery would lessen the burden on taxpayers and assuage governmental budgetary constraints as it relates to road repairs, funds for schools and government buildings, constructing and upgrading of parks, increase the pay of government workers and so on, all while creating a handful of millionaires lucky enough to win a jackpot."

The government has been accused of trying to seize control of the web shop industry through tax increases that will "decimate" all operators and 3,000 jobs in less than a year.

The Bahamas Gaming Operators Association has warned the government it will take legal action over the "expropriatory, discriminatory, excessive and penal" tax rises of up to 355 percent unless it agrees to talks before the week ends.

Mr Gibson also reiterated concerns over Royal Bank's pull-out from Long Island. "Royal Bank will close its doors on Tuesday [today]," he added. "That means that the residents of Long Island will be without a bank.

"We must do something to immediately address their concerns, particularly given the business houses and government agencies that handle a lot of cash." Mr Gibson said Western Union, as well as Cash N' Go, have indicated they will be opening locations on the island, but many businesses and the elderly still prefer to deal with a traditional bank.

Mr Gibson, meanwhile, said he was "overjoyed" to announce that the "long awaited and long overdue airport" for Long Island was included in the 2018-2019 budget.

"We have long been in desperate need of an international airport. The terminal at Deadman's Cay is am embarrassing chicken coop that we have been forced to endure for far too long," he said.

"The lack of airlift is killing Long Island. This has held Long Island back. Our economy is in the doldrums. It is time for Long Island to get its fair cut of The Bahamas' economic pie. Long Island is one of the only major islands without a world class airport."