Bahamas – A New Government & New National Budget

A NEW GOVERNMENT was elected on 10 May 2017 in national elections for The Bahamas Parliament. This year marks the 288th year of continuous parliamentary democracy in The Bahamas based on the Westminster model. Independent since 1973, The Bahamas is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth II remains its ceremonial Head of State. The country has a bicameral parliament with an elected lower house, currently comprised of 39 seats. The upper house, the Senate, is composed of appointed members.

The Free National Movement (FNM) ousted the previously governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) winning an unprecedented majority of 35 of the seats in the lower house, with the PLP winning the remaining 4 seats. Hon Dr Hubert Alexander Minnis, leader of the FNM, is now the Prime Minister, being the fourth since Independence.

On Wednesday 31 May 2017 the new government tabled the national budget for the fiscal year 01 July 2017 – 30 June 2018. The last Wednesday of May each year, by tradition, is ‘Budget Day’ when the national budget is presented to Parliament, opening the budget debate for voting and passing by the end of June, in time for the start of a new fiscal year, which runs 01 July to 30 June.

In his budget address, the Minister of Finance, Hon Peter Turnquest, stated the Government’s commitment to several pro-business objectives, including transparency and accountability, reform to the business and regulatory environment to promote entrepreneurship and economic growth, reducing burdensome taxes, and legislation to streamline procedures and improve the ease of doing business.

Of particular interest to our business clientele, briefly, aspects of the national budget include:

  • No new taxes;
  • Reduction in the business licence tax by 25 basis points of turnover;
  • Elimination of customs duties on a specified range of medical and dental supplies;
  • Elimination or reduction of customs duties on certain food items, specified building materials, and specified personal care and household items; and
  • Customs duty exemption on equipment and machinery for ground repair, maintenance and service of cruise ships and sea vessels.

A more detailed report on the budget legislation as relevant to our business and financial services clientele will be provided in our next Legal Update.