NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell on Tuesday wasted no time to respond to Finance Minister K. Peter Turnquest, who had revealed earlier this week that the government met millions in unpaid bills when it came to office back in May 2017.
At a press conference held yesterday, Mitchell told the media that the government must understand that they will never be able to pay off all of its debt as debt is a fact of life.
“We warned them when they came to office, not to believe their own propaganda, but they deliberately pursued a strategy where, unwisely, they thought that you can go to the bank, borrow $700 million, and pay off all your debt.
“It is impossible to pay off your debts,” Mitchell said.
“You cannot pay off all your debts. Debt is a fact of life, and in a developing country, you cannot have development unless you have debt.”
Mitchell was responding to comments made earlier this week by Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest, who lambasted the opposition’s shadow minister of finance, Chester Cooper, who dissected and criticized the government’s 2018 Fiscal Strategy Report.
In response to Cooper’s criticisms, Turnquest released a statement earlier this week, which revealed that while the public is aware that the government met hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid bills when it came to office in May 2017, the full tally of those bills and obligations was now well past $700 million.
“The lion’s share of these bills was never included in any budget brought to Parliament, which means that the deficit positions they published were, in fact, worse than indicated,” Turnquest revealed on Sunday.
However, the PLP Chairman said he wanted to call a press conference yesterday to outline whether the facts “add up” as it relates to the economy of The Bahamas.
Mitchell said the main issue is one of “management” and “competence of leadership.”
“The moment you signal to a country that you are cutting back – when the government does this – everything in this country depends on government spending and when the government does that[cut back], there is a negative impact on this economy, so it’s no surprise that the deficit figures that they predicted have proven to be false and it will get worse because of their own doing,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, every time the FNM government comes to office, they pursue a policy to stop, review and cancel, with the exception of those investments that took place in the mid-1990s by Kerzner at Atlantis.
Since this time, Mitchell said the IMF shows that there has been a steady decline in the GDP per capita in The Bahamas, which means that incomes have been falling.
Mitchell said when the PLP came to office, and during the 10 years that they had the opportunity to govern, they came up with a growth strategy in the form of anchor projects on each island which was expected to drive the economy of each island.
The PLP Senator noted, however, that whenever the FNM came to office, they would stop, review and cancel projects they met in place by the former administration, and the same was done when they came to office in May 2017.
Mitchell said presently, the issue is whose “narrative” is correct about the existing state of the economy, the FNM or the PLP.
“The facts show very clearly that the FNM has a credibility problem and Peter Turnquest as its main spokesman on Finance has a credibility problem because the facts don’t add up and as they say, the proof is in the pudding and the pudding does not taste good.”