Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis fired four members of his government after they voted “no” against the proposed 60 percent value added tax (VAT) increase from 7.5 percent to 12 percent which was announced in the 2018–2019 budget.
Minnis had warned members employed in the government ministries and agencies, from cabinet ministers to board directors, they would face dismissal from their respective posts if they voted against the bills.
He said if they didn’t have a very strong excuse, such as being in “intensive care” at hospital, or away on official government business and were not able to attend parliament, they will be fired.
After the warning by the prime minister, four government members of parliament of the ruling Free National Movement (FNM) — who had all previously voiced their intention to vote “no” against the VAT increase measures — stood their ground and voted against the proposal.
Three of them were dismissed on Tuesday afternoon by Minnis via letters addressed to them in their official, respective capacities.
Three members of the opposition also voted no, with one absent, and seven members of the governing bench stayed away from the parliament.
Travis Robinson, the youngest MP to ever elected, was relieved of his duties as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism; MP Vaugh Miller, was dismissed as parliamentary secretary in the ministry of social services; and MP Frederick McAlpine was dismissed as chairman of the Hotel Corporation.
Miller and McAlpine both rejected the VAT increase on what it can do to the poor, but also on the moral and spiritual grounds of it, both being members of the cloth and being religious.
A total of 24 MPs voted yes; seven MPs no; and seven MPs were absent.
The bills will now go before the Senate for ratification and further amendments for the July 1, 2018 deadline for the 2018–2019 fiscal year.
Before the bills were debated there were public protests in Parliament Square, in downtown Nassau, against the proposed tax increase.