Opposition slams govt.’s mid-year budget statement

Opposition slams govt.’s mid-year budget statement

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis on Wednesday claimed that it appeared as if the government was borrowing money without any resolutions being moved in parliament.

“I am concerned that we see no resolutions in respect to borrowings because the government’s own documents and statements suggest that there have been borrowings in the last six months and no resolutions from parliament have authorized such borrowings,” Davis told the media at a press conference held in the Opposition Room of parliament.

“The question is, there something they don’t want us to know yet. They talk about transparency and accountability, but they [funds borrowed] need to be accounted for.”

Davis’ comments came shortly after acting prime minister and minister of finance, K. Peter Turnquest delivered the government’s mid-year budget statement in parliament.

The Acting Prime Minister explained that in the first six months of the current fiscal year, the fiscal deficit contracted by 31.0 per cent or $78.7 million to $175.3 million, in comparison to the same period in the previous fiscal year.

He added that the outturn for revenue showed a $129.5 million or 14.7 per cent increase in total receipts to $1,010.3 million, representing 38.1 per cent of the budgeted amount.

However, the PLP’s deputy leader and shadow minister of finance, Chester Cooper,  said what they heard and saw was a minister of finance ‘desperately struggling’ and the mid-year budget communication was a collection of ‘useless words and delusional predictions’.

“The real story of this budget exercise is one of significant revenue shortfall, a knee-jerk, ad-hoc reaction to further curb spending on our already crumbling infrastructure and public services to meet its arbitrary deficit target,” Cooper said.

According to Cooper, the Opposition has warned the FNM administration for months that its VAT increase,  gaming tax increase and it’s dismantling of the Revenue Enhancement Unit were ill-advised and poorly executed.

“It is now on the record that an arrogant lack of consultation with VAT stakeholders, the hotel industry and the construction sector among them, have led to what will be a significant revenue shortfall,” Cooper said, adding that the government’s agenda to bully and erode the wealth of the Bahamian-owned legal gaming industry has also fallen flat.

Further, Cooper said running the revenue enhancement unit instituted by the former administration through the shredder has proven to be folly.

“All of this shows a failure of this Government. We heard nothing today to inspire confidence,” Cooper said.

At half-year, Cooper said revenue collections are only 38 per cent of annual projections, down against projection despite the painful 60 per cent increase in VAT.

“This government has not yet put another unit in place and the $80 million in lost revenue it promised it would capture, was just another empty promise. This amounts to around a $200 million shortfall by the government’s own calculations,” he said.

“We suspect, at the end of the day, it will be an even greater shortfall and the deficit prediction will be missed.”

Cooper said the government’s mid-year statement, like the budget itself, is an example of a government operating with head and no heart.

He said the potential projected GDP growth is good news but does not matter if the Bahamian people cannot feel the growth in their own lives or pockets.