DPM: Fiscal Consolidation Strategy could lag two to five years

DPM: Fiscal Consolidation Strategy could lag two to five years
Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Finance K Peter Turnquest (FILE PHOTO)

Turnquest: “Time” and “circumstances” not working with FNM administration

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the government is hopeful that the opening of major resorts this year will escalate tourist arrivals quickly.

Turnquest said due to the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes, the government’s fiscal consolidation strategy has been pushed back to two to five years.

Yesterday, Baha Mar announced a phased reopening beginning December 17 with enhanced safety and health measures in place.

Atlantis has also announced that it will begin a phased reopening before the end of 2020.

“We are certainly very excited to hear that they are going to open by the end of the year because again, the signs of the economic challenges as a result of those hotels not being opened is evident,” Turnquest told reporters, outside of Parliament.

“Right down here on Bay Street and all the other Straw Markets and areas where tourists would transit and bring economic relief are obviously suffering.

“We are very hopeful that we would have a successful launch of these hotel openings and that we will be able to quickly escalate the arrivals so that we can return to some level of production from that sector which has been obviously seriously hurt as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic.”

On November 1, the country removed 14-day quarantine restrictions and implemented a new testing regime.

While the government’s budget projections expect tourism to rebound at the end of September, that delayed, along with the October 1 expectation which was also delayed due to rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

Turnquest said they have been “reevaluating and reassessing” forecasts and will bring to Parliament the new fiscal strategy for the upcoming year.

He noted however that, “The fiscal consolidation that we were driving towards is going to be delayed at least three to five years.

“The technical details behind that and the assumptions behind that will be presented when we present this fiscal strategy report.”

More Time 

Asked whether he believes the Minnis administration needs more time to complete its agenda set out upon coming into office in 2017, Turnquest said yes.

“Unfortunately for us, while we have been on a very positive path to completing most of what we had promised the Bahamian people we would, but [we had] Hurrican Dorian, and before that Hurricane Irma.”

Turnquest said that the continued challenges have delayed and reset the priorities of the administration on what they would have wanted to have accomplished up to now and before the next election.

“The reality is time is not working with us and circumstance is not working with us,” Turnquest said.

“We will leave it to the Bahamian people to making the judgment as to whether we have made sufficient progress to warrant their confidence for another term”.