NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Opposition Leader Philip Davis yesterday said the prime minister’s decision to remain minister of finance for the remainder of this term is the “opposite of reassuring”.
In a statement, Davis said the prime minister’s decision to remain as finance minister indicates there is no qualified Free National Movement (FNM) MP to occupy the post.
During a national address yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced he would continue as minister of finance and appoint Senator Kwasi Thompson, the minister of state for Grand Bahama, as the minister of state for finance.
“Adding insult to injury, Bahamians gasped when the prime minister announced that he intended to remain in post as minister of finance. His attempt to misrepresent the country’s finances was scandalous,” Davis continued.
“The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has projected that the economy will contract by almost a fifth, some 16.2 percent in real GDP in 2020. This is a direct result of the lockdowns and curfews imposed by the prime minister, wearing his hat of the competent authority. This is not a badge of success.
“Now, the prime minister says he seeks to assure the country that they will continue ‘prudent management of the nation’s finances’. He should know that this is the opposite of reassuring. This government entered office campaigning against VAT (value-added tax), then raised it (that tax increase preceded Dorian and COVID). This government failed, repeatedly, to meet their own budget and revenue targets.”
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported zero cases of COVID-19. Total cases remain at 7,579.
Of the total cases, 1,354 remain active. Another five cases recovered yesterday, pushing recoveries to 6,003 or 79 percent. Eleven cases remain hospitalized.
During the national address, Minnis also announced a further relaxation of measures in The Bahamas in order to celebrate Christmas.
Minnis noted the country has been doing “generally well” with COVID-19 cases and revealed the quarantine requirement for travelers from New Providence and Grand Bahama to other Family islands will be lifted today, December 7.
The prime minister also announced the reopening of all gyms with strict adherence to the health protocols today.
For his part, Davis accused Minnis of seeking to rewrite history by taking credit for the success of COVID-19 policies that “in reality led to thousands of COVID cases in The Bahamas and a series of lockdowns which greatly damaged the local economy”.
He was referring to the July 1 border reopening.
Davis said: “Finally, Bahamians watching the prime minister in the hopes that he would offer a plan to alleviate the pain caused by the FNM lockdowns were sorely disappointed. No help or hope was offered. For months, the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) Action Plan has called for emergency cash support for families, support for small business payrolls, and a programme that works with banks and landlords to help Bahamians keep their homes. That is the only competent, compassionate way to address the fallout from the nation’s terrible unemployment crisis.”
Last night, Minnis said the unemployment benefit program has been extended through January 2021.
The prime minister added the government will also extend its food distribution programme for the first quarter of 2021 with an allocation of another $10 million dollars to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable in society.