NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has slammed the government for what it has described as its “disastrous mismanagement” of the current crisis which it says has wreaked havoc on the economy and exacerbated the plight of businesses across the country.
In a statement responding to the latest fiscal snapshot report, PLP Deputy Leader and Shadow Finance Minister Chester Cooper said the Opposition was less interested in the last quarter’s fiscal performance than it is in examining the current state of the Public Treasury.
According to Cooper, given the severity of the current crisis, the information in the fiscal snapshot report is “dated”.
That report revealed that for fiscal year 2019/2020 total government revenue decreased year-over-year by just over $337 million with the country’s fiscal deficit increasing an estimated “threefold”.
“The Progressive Liberal Party is less interested in last quarter’s fiscal performance than it is in examining the current state of the Public Treasury and having sight of this administration’s plan for economic recovery,” said Cooper.
“Given the severity of the crisis, the information in this report is dated. We are nonetheless examining the numbers closely and will have more to say in due course. The government’s disastrous mismanagement of the crisis has wreaked havoc on the economy, making it worse than it had to be as businesses have been unable to plan and pivot as quickly as the rules change.”
He said: “Bahamians continue to suffer, many lacking basic food and shelter as a result of inefficient programs and failed rental assistance program.”
Cooper said fear of the economic fallout has, perhaps, surpassed the fear of the virus itself.
“Nearly six months into the crisis, it is disgraceful that there is no plan to mitigate the economic fallout from the pandemic and the decisions of the competent authority, and no plan for the future to create jobs or grow the economy,” he said.
“We have already asked the Treasury Committee for a review of government finances, but have only gotten an evasive answer from the minister of finance,” said Cooper.
“What we would like to see are the reports of monthly revenue collected and deposits, as well as the balance on the Consolidated Fund and any overdraft facilities. It is proposed that we examine the actuals compared to projections as well as comparisons to the prior year by month.
“We request the Ministry of Finance provide a copy of the most recent report of the Fiscal Responsibility Council as it would have sight of internal Ministry of Finance reports in preparing its analysis. We remind that this is now legally mandated under the much-touted Fiscal Responsibility Act.”
He said: “We wish to examine all loan documents signed this year, including the Central Bank’s debt sustainability analysis given its new legislation which limits its ability to lend to the government. We also would like a review of all facilities with multi-lateral lenders such as the IDB, the CDB and the World Bank. We further renew our call for a review of the loan agreements and attached conditions of all loans including those executed with the IMF.”
The Opposition has described government’s management for fiscal affairs over the last three years as “horrendous”, even prior to COVID-19 and Dorian.
“We note that the deficit, at $788 million, is roughly 350 percent more than the prior year and almost $110 million more than forecast in June,” he said.
“We remain concerned that the government continues to account for the full spending on the Grand Lucayan Resort as an investment not withstanding that it paid much more than the appraised value and spending continues pending a sale.
The government needs to advise the public as to our specific financial exposure on this so- called investment,” said Cooper.
He added: “The report notes the impact of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19. While Dorian is casually used as the substantial reason for missed targets, the people of Abaco and Grand Bahamas still suffer from lack of restoration and not being able to touch, see or feel the impact of the spending. We decry the lack of restoration in light of the newly projected deficit.”