NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), Senator Fred Mitchell expressed on Monday that the $2.38 billion worth of debt acquired by the country over the last five years is due mostly to the back-to-back hurricanes that occurred towards the end of the Christie administration’s term in office.
“If you look at the stats [given] all of the borrowing which seems to be excessive has to do with one thing, and that’s the hurricane,” Mitchell told the media yesterday.
The PLP Senator was referring to hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew, which ravaged islands in The Bahamas in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
“I have explained to people time and time again that the only reason the deficit was out of whack in the last years of the PLP administration is because we had two hurricanes back-to-back and if they have a hurricane this year, it’ll be out of whack again,” Mitchell said.
“They [the government] just can’t predict it [hurricanes] so it’s a whole lot of nonsense because they are doing nothing today so they are trying to come with an old story about debt.”
The PLP chairman said he was responding to recent comments made by the prime minister at a town meeting in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, where the prime minister said that the country’s national debt presently sits at close to $8 billion dollars to date.
“The total direct national debt ending in December 2018 was about $7.5 billion,” the prime told residents.
“In 2012/2013 alone, $539m was borrowed by the then government,” the prime minister said.
“In 2013/2014, $488m was borrowed,
“Then in 2014/2015, $381m was borrowed,
“Then in 2015/2016, $310m was borrowed,
“Then in 2016/2017, an additional $666m.
“All during that five-year span they had borrowed about $2.38 billion in spite of the additional $1 billion that was obtained from VAT. Our national debt still rose and individuals were still not paid,” Dr. Minnis continued.
“What happened in that five-year span alone is every Bahamian and infant born at that time and those in their mommy’s womb would have incurred a debt before they even entered our shores. They would have incurred a debt of $6,800. That’s just within that five-year span, every Bahamian.
“Then they experienced a series of other events. We were downgraded at least four times and placed in the category of junk bonds making it extremely difficult to borrow — bad credit. Then when you borrow, you borrow at high interest rates, that’s the situation we were placed in.
“But now, the credit agency has moved us from negative credit outlook to stability. So, we are moving in the right direction. We are not negative anymore we are considered stable,” Prime Minister Minnis said.
But in defense of his party, Mitchell said that The Bahamas cannot develop without borrowing.
“This country cannot develop unless you borrow money. Every month they come to the House of Assembly to borrow money. They have to because if you don’t borrow you cannot develop the country,” Mitchell said.
In addition to the country’s debt, Mitchell said there are more issues that the country is now facing.
“On the other score all this cutting back they’re doing and not paying people’s bills and people are starving in the country,” he said. “[There is] no money in circulation so let them go right ahead, they’re going to buck up their toe pretty soon,” Mitchell concluded.