Fiscal Strategy Report 2020 lacking, DNA leader says

Fiscal Strategy Report 2020 lacking, DNA leader says
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Arinthia Komolafe.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government’s Fiscal Strategy Report 2020 (FSR) does not provide a “real strategic plan” for economic improvement in the country, said Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Arinthia Komolafe in a statement on Sunday night.

“The recently released Fiscal Strategy Report neither inspires confidence nor contains a cogent strategy for economic recovery from the devastation unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“The report was heavy on catchy buzzwords and attractive phrases but light on real strategies to reform or stimulate the Bahamian economy.

“The 2020 FSR…was identical to its previous versions in terms of a lack of depth, imagination, innovation and revolutionary plans for the New Bahamas… The response to the COVID-19 pandemic and gloomy projections were, sadly, not balanced with progressive initiatives to diversify the economy.”

Komolafe noted the Ministry of Finance issued at least two press statements to “address errors and oversight in this important report” that was already released behind schedule, suggesting that this reduced credibility.

The government is usually required to present the FSR in the House of Assembly by the third Wednesday in November, but this year it was released one month late, on the third Wednesday in December.

The reason for the delay, the government said at the time, was that “given the unprecedented times, the government decided to take extra diligence in crafting its strategies, making use of the most current fiscal information about the planned reopening of tourism in November to inform critical policy deliberations about the FSR”.

Komolafe continued: “In the aftermath of the resignation of the former deputy prime minister and minister of finance, the PM has appointed himself as minister of finance, appointed a minister of state for finance, appointed a special advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister and appointed a Special Economic Advisory Team at the expense of taxpayers.

“It is important that the credibility of figures and reports presented by the government is sustained as they are relied upon by domestic and international stakeholders. The government must get its act together for the sake of our nation.”

The DNA leader noted the recent removal of The Bahamas from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list, welcoming it as a “long overdue” positive; but she also called for more to be done from both international organizations and the government alike.

“We now call on the European Union and other jurisdictions or entities that have used the inclusion of The Bahamas on the FATF grey list as justification to add our nation to their adverse listings to follow suit,” Komolafe said.

“They must now acknowledge the significant steps taken by The Bahamas to remain compliant with international standards and remove our nation from their blacklists or grey lists immediately.

“Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are by their nature vulnerable to external shocks and natural disasters… There is no doubt that our nation and financial institutions operating from within our jurisdiction have been negatively impacted during the period that The Bahamas was on the FATF grey list.

“Many of our financial institutions and their clients have been subjected to unfair and enhanced scrutiny. It is our hope and expectation that these stringent measures will be reversed without delay.

“In future, we recommend that the government maintains ongoing dialogue and uses all available diplomatic channels to prevent these adverse listings. We decry this modern form of oppression by international agencies and jurisdictions which threaten the livelihoods of our people.”